First Edition 2008
© NOR ABIDAH MOHD OMAR & ZAIDAH ZAINAL 2008
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in writing from Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, Skudai, 81310 J ohor Darul
Perpustakaan Negara Malaysia Cataloguing-in-Publication Data
Research in English language teaching / penyelenggara Noor Abidah Mohd.
Omar, Zaidah Zainal.
1. English language--Study and teaching. I. Noor Abidah Mohd Omar. 1962-.
II. Zaidah Zainal.
Pereka Kulit: MOHD. NAZIR MD. BASRI
Diatur huruf oleh / Typeset by
NORABIDAH MOHD OMAR & RAKAN-RAKAN
Fakulti Pengurusan & Pembangunan Sumber Manusia
Universiti Teknologi Malaysia
J ohor Darul Ta'zim, MALAYSIA
Diterbitkan di Malaysia oleh / Published in Malaysia by
UNIVERSITI TEKNOLOGI MALAYSIA
34 – 38, J alan Kebudayaan 1, Taman Universiti,
J ohor Darul Ta'zim, MALAYSIA.
(PENERBIT UTM anggota PERSATUAN PENERBIT BUKU MALAYSIA/
MALAYSIAN BOOK PUBLISHERS ASSOCIATION dengan no. keahlian 9101)
Dicetak di Malaysia oleh / Printed in Malaysia by
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
Chapter 1 The Teaching of Science in English in the
Tan Hooi Koon
Noor Abidah Mohd. Omar
ETEMS: The Implications on Learners
Faizah Mohamad Nor, Marzilah Abd. Aziz
Teachers’ Perceptions of Literature Circle as
a Technique to Teach Creative Writing Using
Adlina bt. Abdul Samad, Marzilah bt A. Aziz,Tina
Literature in English Language Teaching: A
Revisit in the Malaysian Context
Fauziah Ismail, MArzilah Abdul Aziz , Tina
The Holistic Approach: Using Drama in the
Secondary ESL Classroom
Abdullah bin Mohd. Nawi
The Role of Content Knowledge in the Use of
Faizah Mohamad Nor
The Relationship between Reading
Comprehension and Strategies of Readers: A
Case Study of UTM Students
The Comparative Effect of Language Used in
Recall Protocol in Reading Comprehension
Facilitating Content Acquisition through
Language: The “Wall Poster” Technique
Masputeriah Hamzah and Abdul Halim Abdul Raof
Using Bahasa Malaysia while Writing in
English: A Case Studyof Malay Students
Corpus Analysis of Primary One Science
Textbooks for Designing ELT Materials
Sarimah Shamsudin, Zaidah Zainal, Salbiah Seliman,
and Yasmin Hanaf Zaid
This collection of writings will be useful for English language
practitioners as it provides readers with some insights into what takes
place in the classroom ranging from language used in teaching content
subjects to useful techniques to enhance reading comprehension. It
also provides a review on literature in English language teaching
curriculum as well as how Malay learners write in English. For those
interested in corpus analysis in discovering language patterns and
how these could be used to develop teaching materials, the chapter
on corpus analysis would be especially useful.
The deliberations begin with a glimpse into what takes place
in the teaching of science in English in the Malaysian classroom.
This is viewed from the choice of language used by the teacher
in imparting the content of the subject. Faizah Mohamad Nor and
Marzilah Abd. Aziz then present fndings oI their study on the eIIects
of the teaching of Mathematics and Science in English on learners.
A description of how teachers’ perception on improving
students’ creative writings in English by adopting the literature circle
technique is the topic of Chapter 3. In the same vein, Tina Abdullah
takes another look at literature in English language teaching focusing
on the Malaysian context. Closely related to the creative side of
learning is the use of drama in the secondary ESL classrooms which
is critically reviewed by Abdullah Mohd. Nawi.
For those concerned with improving reading skills among
learners, the papers by Zaidah Zainal and Faizah Mohamad Nor will
be of some interest as the former looks at reading strategies while
the latter discusses the role of content knowledge in reading. Zaidah
Zainal again discusses the effect of language used to recall protocol
in reading comprehension. The ‘Wall Poster’ technique to facilitate
content acquisition among learners is proposed by Masputeriah
Hamzah in her paper This paper would be especially useful for
instructors involved in the teaching of content subjects.
Included in this collection is a paper on whether Malay
learners switch to Bahasa Melayu when writing in English. This is
the concern of the paper by Mahani Stapa in which it is suggested
that teachers of ESL should view how the use of L1 could actually
assist learners in writing in English.
The book ends with a corpus analysis of textbooks, in this
case primary one science textbooks, in designing and developing
1 The Teaching Of Science In English In The Malaysian Classroom
THE TEACHING OF SCIENCE
IN ENGLISH IN THE
TAN HOOI KOON
NOOR ABIDAH BINTI MOHD OMAR
In 2003, the Malaysian Government made a purposeful decision to
change the medium of instruction for the teaching of Science and
Mathematics from Bahasa Malaysia to English. This change was
made as a step towards preparing the nation to face the economic
globalisation (K-economy) as well as to develop the nation to be on
par with the advancement of science and technology globally. This
change poses a challenge to teachers who have been trained in Bahasa
Malaysia and even for those who have been trained in English, as a
large part of their professional experience involved the use of Bahasa
Malaysia as a medium of instruction. What is more, teachers who
were the products of the KBSM syllabus have learnt the subjects
in Bahasa Malaysia and might be less familiar with the subjects in
English. This unfamiliarity with the new medium of instruction might
cause a gap in the fuency oI speech during the delivery oI the content.
In spite of the directive given by the Ministry of Education that the
entire teaching and learning process should be conducted in English,
Science teachers may Iace diIfculties in expressing himselI/herselI
and thus, resort to the use of another language so as to “compensate
Ior the defciency¨ (Crystal, 1987).
Since the teaching and learning process involves not only the
teachers, students may also be affected by this change. Most school
students (other than those from English private schools) have been
2 Research In English Language Teaching
learning most of their subjects in Bahasa Malaysia other than the
English subject. Schools that offer an English speaking environment
are rare and usually limited to the premier schools as well as schools
in the urban areas. In a study conducted by Mohd Sof Ali (2005) on
the use of the English language in three primary schools in the east
coast of Malaysia, it was found that the use of the English language
was limited only to the English subject classroom and English as
an interaction medium outside the classroom was “practically non-
existent¨. Students Irom other regular government schools and
schools which are away Irom the main cities` infuence might have
less exposure to an English speaking environment.
Moreover, it is supposed that in areas away from cities,
English is not a language that is commonly used as everyday language
Ior transactions or even conversations. Pillay (1995, as cited in Pillay,
1998), in her case study oI fve diIIerent secondary schools indicated
that there are serious issues of differences between the level of
competency in English between urban and rural schools. It was found
that students who have high levels of competency tend to come from
English speaking homes, have greater exposure to English outside the
classroom and tend to come from the higher socio-economic status
group while those who are less competent in the language come from
either rural schools where exposure to English is limited or from low
socio-economic groups in urban areas.
It is the concern of teachers and parents that these students
might Iace diIfculties in coping and understanding the teaching and
learning process as they have less exposure in listening to spoken
English for input. Students who come from non-English speaking
environments have no scaffolding provided for developing their
listening skills as the use oI the language is usually confned to the
language classroom only. In addition to that, students are no longer
learning English as a subject but they are now required to use English
to learn a subject. Inability to understand the language might result
in failure of coping with the teaching and learning process, which
might cause loss of motivation and interest in the subject. In order
to prevent these detrimental effects from happening, teachers might
3 The Teaching Of Science In English In The Malaysian Classroom
resort to using a more ‘familiar’ language to teach; one that the
students can comprehend suIfciently to help them understand and
access the knowledge.
In a study conducted by Ambigapathy and Revathi (2004),
much has been revealed about the teacher’s opinions on the use of
the English language to teach Science and Mathematics. Although
many indicated that they Ielt confdent in coping with the change,
the teachers admitted that they were still prone to using Bahasa
Malaysia to explain concepts to students. It was Iound that 81.8
percent oI the respondents studied used the L1 (Bahasa Malaysia)
to explain concepts when students faced problems in understanding
these concepts in English. These teachers maintained that students’
low profciency in English was the cause Ior using Bahasa Malaysia
In addition to that, a study conducted recently by Hamidah
et.al (2005) to investigate the eIIectiveness and adequacy oI training
programs offered by the ministry to prepare teachers to teach
Mathematics in English revealed that while there is improvement
and increase in confdence to teach in English, about 40 percent oI
the teachers surveyed still faced problems in the area of speaking
whereby “they have problems in expressing ideas (…) and some
diIfculties in expressing opinions in this language¨. ThereIore, it is
shown that while teachers have the confdence to teach, they may
still be lacking in terms of the ability to manipulate the language
Ior instructional purposes and that students` low profciency level is
one of the reasons for using Bahasa Malaysia as they are unable to
comprehend the content of a lesson taught in English.
Based on the concerns mentioned, this study was conducted
to investigate if alternative languages are used in the teaching of
Science and the reasons for using the alternative languages in the
Science classroom. Although it seemed that alternative languages
are needed to support and facilitate the learning of Science, the
over-use oI the L1 could propel the teaching towards a Concurrent
Translation bilingual teaching model which has its disadvantages
in the classroom. As Faltis (1997) points out, although the purpose
4 Research In English Language Teaching
of translation is to ensure that all the students can understand what
is being taught, students usually ignore the second language and
wait instead for information to be provided in their native language
(Saville & Troike, 1971), and so they are less likely to develop high
levels oI English language profciency and their native language is
likely to suffer as well.
Therefore, it seems that teachers should be very careful when
using different languages to teach content to bilingual or multilingual
students. However, this does not mean that translation or the use of
another language in the classroom is prohibited. Sert (2005) suggested
that one should have at least an understanding of the functions of
switching between the native and foreign languages and its underlying
reasons. This understanding will increase the awareness of the choice
oI language in the classroom discourse. Sert (2005) explained that the
teacher’s switching of languages is not always performed consciously;
which means that the teacher is not always aware of the functions and
outcomes of the switching process. Ferguson (2003), in Üstünel and
Seedhouse (2005), used recent signifcant studies oI classroom code
switching to suggest that classroom code switching can be classifed
into three main categories according to the pedagogical functions
of classroom discourse. They are code switching for curriculum
access, for classroom management discourse and for interpersonal
The reason for code switching in the classroom was found
to be done usually out of concern for the students’ learning process.
Based on studies suggested by Castellotti (1997) and Martin (1999),
Ferguson (2003) suggested that code switching plays a signifcant
role in providing access to English medium text and in scaffolding
knowledge construction for students with limited command of
the English language. Martin (1996) looked into three diIIerent
English-medium content classrooms, which are the History, Science
and Mathematics classes, and found that “code-switching was most
common in History and then Science lessons, and least common
in Mathematics lessons.¨ Nevertheless, the reasons Ior using code
switching was similar in that the teacher realises that students
5 The Teaching Of Science In English In The Malaysian Classroom
Iace 'diIfculties in the comprehension oI the lesson content and
resorts to whatever linguistic resources¨ in order to overcome these
The second function of code switching suggested by Ferguson
(2003) based on studies by Canagarajah (1995) was its use to manage
the classroom whereby the teacher switch from one language to the
another to “discipline a pupil, to attend to latecomers, (and) to gain
and Iocus pupil`s attention¨. Code switching here was seen as an act
of diversion from the lesson for the purpose of managing students’
behaviour and learning in the classroom. One interesting function
highlighted by Ferguson (2003) was the use of code switching as an
'attention-Iocusing device¨ to re-direct students` attention and this
is usually done at the beginning of a new topic. Flyman-Mattson
and Burenhult (1999) identifed similar Iunctions but this category
was labelled as 'topic switch¨ in that topic change will result in a
change in language. Flyman-Mattson and Burenhult (1999) proposed
two possible reasons Ior this kind oI change. The frst was that 'the
message in the utterances is so important that the teacher is not willing
to risk misinterpretation on the part oI the aIIected students¨ and the
second was similar to Ferguson (2003) in that “code switching is used
as an instrument to get students` attention.¨
Both AdendorI (1993) and Merritt (1992) had investigated
social and affective classroom environment and found that code
switching was also used to negotiate and establish relationships and
identities. Flyman-Mattson and Burenhult (1999) also identifed
similar Iunctions in their fndings where by code switching played
'socialising Iunctions¨ and 'aIIective Iunctions¨. Code switching was
used by the teacher to “signal friendship and solidarity by using the
addressee`s frst language¨ as well as to signal aIIective Iunctions such
as to 'express sympathies¨, 'express anger¨ and so on. The teacher
may choose to use a different language when speaking to the students
to create a more comfortable learning environment, and thus, lower
down their aIIective flter beIore the learning begins. However, the
teacher can also choose to switch back to the unfamiliar language
to indicate seriousness in the next part of the class. Based on Soo’s
6 Research In English Language Teaching
(1986) study, the choice to use a more distant language is made to
make the command more serious and formal, and since the teacher
in Malaysian classrooms are also bilingual or multilingual, it is not
surprising that this choice of language is done sub-consciously and
These fndings Irom previous researches have revealed that
there is a role for code switching in the classroom; be it the content
classroom or the language classroom and that the choice of using
one language or another in the classroom has important pedagogical
This study focused on only one Science teacher, who himself studied
and trained under the KBSM syllabus. This teacher, T, was teaching
three Form Two Science classes - Form 2.3, Form 2.4 and Form
2.7. Form 2.3 and 2.4 are considered classes with average academic
perIormances while Form 2.7 consists oI students who are academically
weak. However, the general command of English is rather weak and
the profciency level in all three classes range Irom beginner to lower
intermediate with the majority at the beginner’s level while only a
handful belonged to the lower intermediate level. As a large part of
the classroom activities and pedagogical role of a teacher require
him to speak such as giving instructions and explanations, this study
focused only on the use of alternative languages during the teacher’s
spoken discourse. T was audio-recorded, observed and interviewed
over a period of two weeks. T was interviewed at the beginning
of the data collection to gather information about his background
and opinion about the use of English in the teaching of Science as
well as about the classroom setting and composition. Later, another
interview using the Stimulated Recall technique (Nunan, 1992) was
conducted by getting him to comment on what was happening using
the transcribed lessons.
7 The Teaching Of Science In English In The Malaysian Classroom
A basic transcription system was used because the focus of
this study was on the use of the alternative languages and not on the
specifc Ieatures oI the discourse.
Symbol Meaning Example
T Teacher -
S Student -
Ss Students -
La Lab Assistant
Raised volume HA?
// . // Overlap (two persons
at the same time)
T: //K, it`s all in your SPS
S: //Cikgu, buat ni dua ah?//
continuation from the
T: Mana buku? =
S:= Ah, buku apa?
… Prolonged sound T: Ah…
Xxx - Truncated sentence T: One black -
(.) Pauses below 5 seconds T: One black box (.)
(n) Pauses Ior 5 seconds
and above with 'n¨
number of seconds.
T: Draw one line (5)
T: Same. Don`t do it. (10)
Table 3.0: Symbols used for the transcription of the audio recordings
8 Research In English Language Teaching
The transcribed data was later analysed and interpreted using a
cue-response system adapted Irom Jacobson`s (1982) New Concurrent
Approach Iound in Faltis (1996). This Iramework provided a means
oI categorising the data into diIIerent 'cues¨ at which the alternative
language was used and provided several reasons for the use of
different languages during the teaching of a content subject.
USE OF ALTERNATIVE LANGUAGE IN THE SCIENCE
A total oI 12 classes were observed and an average oI 11 hours oI
recordings revealed that the teacher did use an alternative language
during the teaching of Science, which is Bahasa Malaysia (BM).
Extracts below are examples of use of BM during the teaching of
Science. The number in the bracket () indicates the number of extract.
'Tn¨ indicates the number oI transcription Irom which the extract
is taken and the numbers after that indicate the lines at which the
utterance can be found.
T: Ok. Sounds are produced by vibration. Ok, bunyi
dihasilkan melalui getaran.
(2) [T9: 75-76]
T: Page twenty six checkpoint one point seven (.) do it
now (.) Then, saya dah bagi latihan sebelum ini kan?
K, buat mind-mapping dekat dalam buku nota.
9 The Teaching Of Science In English In The Malaysian Classroom
It was also observed that T’s use of BM varied in frequency
depending on the profciency level oI the students. However, this
study did not investigate in depth the frequency of BM used in
the classrooms as it would require a different type of analysis.
Nevertheless, a quick glance at the transcriptions showed that BM
occurred in almost every line especially when the teacher is not
teaching content. This was done by looking at the amount of lines
which contained BM in each transcription. This suggests that BM
was used in the Form 2.7 classroom more Irequently compared to the
other two classes. T confrmed this observation and explained that
this was due to the low language profciency level among the students
in the class although T claimed that even with the use of BM, there
were still some students who faced problems understanding him.
T admitted that it is frustrating to teach when students do not seem
to understand what he is saying. Since T does not speak any other
alternative languages, he would resort to speak in BM; a language that
all students are familiar with so that they can understand his lesson
and communication can take place.
The transcribed lessons also revealed that T’s use of BM
varied with the type of teaching and learning activities. Based on
the observations, T was observed to use more BM when teaching
and learning activities require T to move around during the lesson to
monitor the students instead of speaking at the front of the class. Thus,
BM was used mostly when students were working on the exercises
and also during experiments. T explained that he had to use more
BM during experiments because he needed to explain the steps to the
students to make sure that the experiments are conducted correctly.
REASONS FOR USING BAHASA MALAYSIA IN THE
The data analyzed based on the Cue-Response System adapted Irom
Jacobson (1982) has revealed that BM was used when T talked
10 Research In English Language Teaching
about matters related to the content taught for the day’s lesson. It
was observed that BM was used only when needed during content
teaching depending on the students` profciency level and thereIore,
it was used less frequently in Form 2.3 but very frequently in Form
2.7. Extracts (3) and (4) show instances oI BM use during the content
T: Ok. Sounds are produced by vibration. Ok, bunyi
dihasilkan melalui getaran
(4) [T8: 105-109]
Cikgu, apa maksud soalan ini? (…)
What’s the connection between taste and smell? Ok.
If you get ßu, selsema, you ada selera makan? Ada
tak? You kena selsema, you ada selera makan? Tak
ada? K, that is the connection. You must smell hrst,
then only you have the appetite to eat. You ada selera
BM was used especially in Form 2.7 as the students could not
understand the concepts in English. Although it was important to use
English to prepare students’ for their examinations, T’s main concern
was Ior the students to understand the content frst thus BM was used
to ensure eIfciency oI content delivery and comprehension oI content.
Nevertheless, he tried as much as possible to provide input in English
and he is also very conscious of the use of BM during the lesson.
Therefore, T uses BM for concept development only if he feels that
students do not understand him. It is also possible that T’s decision
is infuenced by his need to comply with the instructions Irom the
school principal to teach Science fully in English if possible.
11 The Teaching Of Science In English In The Malaysian Classroom
In addition to content development, it was found based on
observation that many of T’s students were easily distracted, and
therefore, T had to constantly ask questions to draw and maintain
students` attention in the lesson as shown in extracts (5) and (6).
(5) [T4: 323-325]
K, jadi kamu, kedudukan kotak ini
mempengaruhi kedudukan i dengan r kamu
(.) dan juga sinar tuju kamu, incident ray,
sinar tuju. Jadi kalau kotak kamu kat sini,
adakah sinar tuju kamu kat sini juga?
(6) [T9: 431]
T: Yah, Goh. Why? Ada – any questions? Ada
BM was used to encourage students to participate and engage
their attention in learning. BM was also used to ask questions as
students can relate to the language and respond to the questions
immediately. Some students might be able to understand the question
in English but they would not Ieel comIortable or confdent to respond.
It was observed that whenever T asked questions in English, the
students would look down at their books but when the questions were
asked in BM, they were spontaneous and responsive. This could be
because when a question is posed in English, students would want
to reply but their lack of ability to speak might hinder them from
participating in the lesson.
Besides giving explanations, it was found that instructions
formed a large part of T’s discourse and these were divided into two;
content-related instructions and regulatory instructions. Content-
12 Research In English Language Teaching
related instructions are those related to the subject and learning process
such as instructions about the experiment procedures, which book to
do their exercises in, which exercise to work on and so forth. These
instructions were occasionally if not frequently issued in BM. The
choice of language was dependent on the urgency of the instruction.
If the value of the instruction is less important or not urgent, T can
take the time to provide more language exposure. However, if the
message or the instruction is of high importance and imperative, T
will switch to BM so that the students can understand and act upon
the instructions immediately. Two examples are taken from one same
transcript to illustrate this point. Extract (9) is an example oI which
the urgency of the instruction is low. T was giving instructions on
how to use the transformer and explaining which volt level to use.
Note that the transformer is yet to be switched on.
(9) [T 4: 134-136]
T: K, mula-mula saya nak kamu, k, switch the
lowest current volt (.) Two. Not the high one ah,
choose the lowest one hrst. (.) K, on.
However in extract (11), the transIormer has been switched on
and therefore; students needed to be more careful handling the expensive
device. Thus, his instructions were given immediately in BM.
(10) [T4: 137-139]
Cikgu, tak terang kan?
Ok, tak terang. Baru kamu naikkan sikit-sikit.
K, naikkan sikit. Saya bagi maksimum sampai
sepuluh saja. Jangan naikkan sampai dua belas.
13 The Teaching Of Science In English In The Malaysian Classroom
Therefore, the value of the message is an important factor that
affects T’s choice of language when teaching as what is important is
the effectiveness of the instructions. In order for the message to be
delivered effectively, students must be able to understand the meaning
of the utterance immediately.
As was mentioned earlier, T’s discourse in the classroom was
not limited to content development and classroom management but it
also included interpersonal conversations (formal or informal matters)
which are not related to the content or the classroom context. It was
noticed that these cues were mostly carried out with BM as the main
medium of interaction.
(11) [T8: 127-133]
kongsi- kongsi apa?
Boleh photostat buku?
Mana boleh photostat?
Ada cikgu, ni?
Mana boleh photostat? You mau kena penjara ke?
Ni siapa punya? Ni copy right lah, you mau kena
It was noted that T moved around from student to student
to monitor their work and while doing so, T tries to foster a good
relationship with them by discussing matters other than the content.
He tries to gain their trust by showing that he is as concerned about
the individual as he is about their studies. In order to establish such
solidarity, T uses BM as it is a common language used by the students.
In addition to that, T mentioned that he is also more comfortable using
BM to talk about things that are non-related to the content as that
14 Research In English Language Teaching
is how he normally speaks. Even though the classroom is a formal
situation, T is also occasionally infuenced by his personal preIerences
and so uses BM for personal matters.
Indirectly, the use of BM here helps T reduce the status
gap between him and his students and this enables him to be more
approachable. Teacher and student communication is important in the
classroom and so T tries to foster a close relationship with the students
by using this method. This is noted when T occasionally slips in some
advice in BM to students during such interpersonal conversations to
encourage them to study. For example,
(12) [T10: 371-376]
T: You lain kali belajar tak berapa pandai kan,
bukan bodoh. Tak berapa pandai kan, and then
you can get good results, that’s ok. You masih ada
masa boleh perbaiki. Kalau you mahu perbaiki,
you boleh repeat SPM. K, lepas tu dapat ok sikit
punya result. Tapi not as good as yang lain kan.
Tapi you ada sukan, you dapat medal semua tu
ah. Ok, now syarikat swasta macam Maybank,
TNB ambil juga orang yang boleh bersukan. Ok.
Thus BM can also be viewed as a tool to establish rapport
as well as to create a positive, comfortable and warm classroom
Besides these occurrences, there were other uses of BM which
were not accounted Ior in the Cue Response System by Jacobson
(1982). Similar utterances were grouped together and the general
purposes Ior using BM in each group were identifed. One oI these
groups is the Classroom Management Cues` whereby T used BM
to control the students’ behaviour in the classroom. An obvious
15 The Teaching Of Science In English In The Malaysian Classroom
and recurrent instant of such use was when T scolded, warned or
reprimanded students as seen in the following extracts:
(13) [T3: 112-113]
T: Quiet! One more time (.) Jangan melampau sangat.
Jangan buat saya marah dulu.
(14) [T7: 69-72]
T: Kalau tak nak belajar, jangan datang kelas saya.
K? Jangan buat kacau dalam kelas saya. Sama
juga dengan perempuan yang sini. K, yang
belakang sebelah sana. Jangan ingat kamu ni
baik sangat. Pandai sangat (.) Tak nak belajar
tak payah datang sekolah. Lepas tu kita boleh
buang terus. Tak perlu datang sekolah lagi. (.) Tak
faham-faham lagi! (.) EY, TAK HABIS LAGI? …
SAYA TAK TEGUR, SEMUA MAIN-MAIN!
The purpose of reprimanding the students was so that they
will stop their misbehaviour immediately and in order for this to
be eIIective; the students must frst understand what is being said.
Therefore, T used BM because the students will understand what he
is saying and produce the desired behaviour. As was noticed in extract
(13) when T used English frst to scold the students and instruct them
to keep quiet, there were no visible changes in the students’ behaviour
but when T used BM with an increased volume, the students kept
quiet immediately. It is interesting to note that when T used English
to warn or scold students, they had the tendency to laugh it off and
take it less seriously but when T used BM, they took heed of the
warning and changed their behaviour even if only for a while. This
diIIered Irom Soo`s (1986) study, where it was noted that the choice
16 Research In English Language Teaching
to use a more distant language is made to make the command more
serious and formal. It could be possible that because the students
could not understand what T was saying, they chose to ignore his
admonishments. In addition, T did not like to reprimand in English
because he felt uneasy doing so as English was almost like a foreign
language to him and so, he could not express his thoughts fuently.
Therefore, BM was used to deliver the affective meaning of the
Besides scolding and reprimanding students, it was also found
that there was an extensive use of BM when T checked on students’
behaviour as seen in extract (15) and (16).
T: Sekurang-kurangnya saya tengok dua orang ni da
ada kemajuan (.) dah ada dua soalan. Yang ini?
Baru apa? Chapter – checkpoint one point seven?
Apasal? Susah sangat ke nak tulis jawapan tu,
mungkin susah juga kamu nak cari.
(16) [T7: 227-234]
(Some girls just
broke a beaker in
T: WHICH GROUP? OK SIAPA NAK
BERTANGGUNGJAWAB? … Ok. Siapa nak
tanggungjawab?... Siapa yang buat?...
Siapa yang langgar?
Therefore, it was important that students could understand
what the teacher was saying or asking about, thus in order to therefore
BM was used to check their behaviour. Another possible reason could
17 The Teaching Of Science In English In The Malaysian Classroom
be because behaviour checks are not related to the content and they
usually occur during the non-formal teaching and learning process
during the lesson, which is why T might feel less compelled to use
English than the extensive use of BM for such a purpose.
There were other minor uses oI BM observed and identifed
from the data collected throughout the two week period. This paper
has highlighted only the major occurrences of BM use in the teaching
of Science but in general, it was found that BM was used as an
alternative language for different reasons in the Science classroom.
Based on the fndings and discussion, it can be concluded that the
main reasons for using BM as an alternative language in the Science
classroom was because students could not comprehend the content
as well as instructions delivered in English. Therefore, there was a
need for an alternative language to deliver the message effectively
and eIfciently. Furthermore, it was also important to engage students`
attention and encourage their participation in the classroom activities
so that the teaching and learning process can take place, thus, BM
was used. However, a teacher’s personal background could have
affected his use of BM as it is his mother tongue so while he was
comIortable and confdent teaching in English (which may not be
too diIfcult because there is a book to Iollow and read Irom), he
naturally reverts to BM which is incidentally his mother tongue for
certain purposes such as building rapport with the students or even
to express his emotions.
Several pedagogical recommendations can be suggested
based on the fndings oI this study. From the observations, fndings
and feedback during the interview, it can be noted that the teacher
is able to use English as a medium of instruction but an alternative
language is needed to help students understand the lesson better.
Hence, it is recommended that Science teachers be trained to use an
18 Research In English Language Teaching
alternative language for designated purposes and only when really
needed during the lesson so that the alternative language will not
become a ‘crutch’ for the students to depend on when learning in
the ‘unfamiliar’ language. Teachers who are professionally trained
to use both languages can slowly reduce students’ dependency on
the alternative language during content learning while at the same
time create a need in them to learn or improve their command of the
The students` inability to cope as shown in the fndings also
reveals that there is a need for supplementary language support
classes that could help students cope with this change from BM to
English. It must be realized that the language taught in the English
classes in schools are more aesthetic and communicative in nature
and thereIore, insuIfcient to be used as a tool Ior learning a content
subject. Students in the upper form are provided with the English for
Science and Technology (EST) classes to help them learn the language
of Science but students in the lower form are not exposed to such
language input. It is recommended that the English classes provide
language support to help students cope with their content learning.
For example, a language teacher could spend a few minutes of the
lesson to teach or review certain language items (tenses, vocabulary,
etc) required in the particular chapter of the Science subject that the
students are learning.
Nonetheless, these conclusions and recommendations are
drawn and made based on the fndings gained Irom a small scale case
study which focused on only one Science teacher. Therefore, it is
recommended that this study be extended to a larger scale to include
more subjects so that this situation can be investigated in more detail.
A larger scale oI this study could also provide fndings that are more
refective oI the general situation in the Science classrooms. It is
also recommended that future research could look into the use of
the alternative language according to race and gender. It would be
interesting to fnd out iI the race and gender oI the participants does
affect the teacher’s choice of language and if this choice is limited only
in the content classroom or also found in the language classroom.
19 The Teaching Of Science In English In The Malaysian Classroom
More detailed research could also be carried out to investigate
whether the teacher will use the alternative language when placed in
classes where students have higher language profciency levels. The
students in this study were mostly lower profciency learners thus
it would be interesting to fnd out iI this same condition happens in
the higher language profciency classes. It would also be interesting
to fnd out iI the teacher needs to use the alternative language when
teaching students in the upper form who should have developed
their cognitive ability of learning Science and have learnt Science in
English since the beginning of their secondary schools.
Lastly, this study has found that while the teacher is able to
use English to teach and communicate in the Science classroom,
students still Iaced diIfculties in coping with the change. Although
very preliminary, this study has shown that the alternative language
is useful and important in scaffolding students’ content learning as
well as bridging communication gaps between teacher and students.
While the fndings are specifc Ior this case and may not be refective
of the larger population, future studies in this area, supported by larger
corpora, are likely to shed more light on this area of language choice
for the teaching of Science in English.
AdendorII, R. (1993) Code-switching amongst Zulu-speaking
teachers and their pupils: its functions and implications
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20 Research In English Language Teaching
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and pedagogical focus. International Journal
of Applied Linguistics. 15(3): 302-325. Available at:
21 The Teaching Of Science In English In The Malaysian Classroom
4192.2005.00093.x. |last access: 1 March 2006|.
Hamidah Ab Rahman, et al. (2005). Teacher`s Competency in the
Teaching of Mathematics in English in Malaysian
Secondary Schools. Reform, Revolution and Paradigm Shifts
in Mathematics Education. 25th November 1st December.
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Instructional Model: The New Concurrent Approach. In:
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Environment in Brunei. Journal of Multilingual and
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jmmd0170128.pdI. |last access: 12 February 2006|.
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Second Language Teaching of French. Working
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disseminations/pdI/47/fyman¸burenhult.pdI. |last access: 1
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Programme in Five Malaysian Secondary Schools.
22 Research In English Language Teaching
University oI East Anglia: Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation.
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Malaysia. The Language Teacher Online. 22(11). Available
|last access: 1 September 2005|.
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Sert, O. (2005) The Functions oI Code Switching in ELT
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access: 1 August 2005|
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23 Etems: The Implications On Learners
ETEMS: THE IMPLICATIONS
FAIZAH MOHAMAD NOR
MARZILAH ABD AZIZ
The ETeMS (or English for Teaching Mathematics and Science)
was introduced in Malaysian public schools in 2003 with the main
objective oI enhancing the English language profciency oI Malaysian
learners. This is because much has been said about the deteriorating
level of English skills among Malaysian learners. It was felt that
learners’ English was better off when English was the medium of
instruction in schools in the 1960’s. When the national language,
Bahasa Malaysia was made the medium of instruction in 1970,
some quarters perceived this as the regressing point where the use
of English language is concerned. Tun Dr Mahathir, the then Prime
Minister, mooted the use of English in the teaching and learning
of Mathematics and Science subjects, with the noble intention of
producing Malaysians who are more linguistically competent and
consequently, spearheading development and progress in education.
Therefore, one of the ways of seeking knowledge would be through
reading vast amounts of information which is mainly readily available
in English, the lingua-franca.
However, the move has sparked off some debate within certain
departments. It is argued that non-profcient learners are negatively
affected by this regulation. Learners who do not have a strong
command oI the language are said to be on the losing end as they fnd
it diIfcult to cope with the language. Consequently, these learners
are said to have fared badly in Mathematics and Science. If this is
24 Research In English Language Teaching
true, then, it is Ieared that non-profcient learners will perIorm badly
academically due to their deteriorating performance in Mathematics
and Science subjects, apart from their already poor performance in
the English subject.
A number of studies have been carried out to investigate how
far these assumptions and views are true. Studies have been done on
teachers involved in the ETeMS programme in order to get their views
on the challenges faced due to this instruction (Salbiah et al, 2002;
Norazman et al, 2006). However, till this day, it is not clear what the
learners actually feel about having to learn these tough subjects in a
second language, or in some settings, a foreign language.
Hence, this study was undertaken with the main objective of
determining the effects and implications of this regulation on a group
of Malaysian learners. The researchers felt it was imperative to gauge
the feelings of the learners themselves as they are the ones directly
affected by the regulation. Thus it is crucial to investigate what the
learners feel about this issue, as the Ministry of Education will soon
be making a decision on whether the regulation persists or otherwise,
to ensure that we will not be taking a step backward if we are already
making improvements, since the move was introduced.
In this study, the researchers attempted to seek answers to the
following research questions:
Do the learners feel that their performance in Mathematics
and Science has improved as a consequence of learning these
subjects in English?
Has the learners` English profciency improved as a result
of the greater exposure to the English language, since
Mathematics and Science subjects are now taught in
What are some of the challenges faced by learners in learning
Mathematics and Science subjects in English?
It is hoped that the fndings oI this study would help the
authorities concerned to make an informed decision on the policy
25 Etems: The Implications On Learners
pertaining to the use of English in teaching and learning Mathematics
and Science subjects.
TEACHING AND LEARNING MATHEMATICS AND
SCIENCE IN ENGLISH
Background of ETeMS
The declining standard of English usage by students has set a chapter
in the training of teachers to teach core school subjects in the English
language particularly in Malaysia. ETeMS (English for Teaching
Mathematics and Science) has been introduced as a platform to train
teachers to teach teachers of Mathematics and Science (MST) in
English. This effort is taken to help teachers understand how language
is best used in the content area so that they can deliver their lesson
effectively to students. It is also a mechanism used by the Government
to encourage teachers to develop their English language competence
so that they can teach the subjects with greater confdence.
The announcement to teach Mathematics and Science
in English in 2002 and implemented in 2003 has motivated the
Teacher Education Division to upgrade the language profciency
of Mathematics and Science teachers so that they can conduct their
lessons in English successfully in class. Five-pronged strategies
have been adopted in the training program. These strategies are
Interactive phase 1, Interactive phase 2, Self Instructional package
for self-directed studies, web based and buddy support system. The
interactive phases were meant for grouping teachers together to allow
interaction with each other thus forming a favourable community.
Teachers who were profcient were identifed and became trainers.
The self instructional package, grammar books, dictionaries with
CD-ROMs and web-based portals were made available Ior those
who needed further language support. The buddy system that was
conceptualised on the belief that teachers learn best from each other
26 Research In English Language Teaching
was also part of the assistance given to teachers who cannot be reached
by the Teacher Education Division.
Why teach Mathematics and Science in English?
The knowledge of English that students derive from Mathematics
and Science helps to develop students’ language competency. Being
competent in the English language is an added advantage for students.
For one, they would be able to perform internationally. This is based
on the fact that English is used as a medium of instruction by many
countries in the world. Being competent users of English also means
that they are able to gain access to the resources in the Internet since
most of the Internet resources are written in the English language.
This sets the foundation for students to become independent learners
in the future.
The new language policy introduced in the teaching of the
two core subjects aims at upgrading the nation’s capability to play a
bigger role in technological advancement. ETeMS therefore prepares
teachers to develop students who are very competent in the English
language so that they can keep pace with the rapid advances in
science and technology, as English is considered to be the language
Teachers teaching these core subjects in the English language
are indirectly required to understand how language is used in the
content area to enable them to deliver their lessons effectively. They
become the ‘resource persons’ for students who consistently need
help to cooperate with, understand concepts and do things that they
cannot do on their own. Good understanding of how language is used
in the content area provides access to learning. It is in fact a window to
develop students’ understanding of many specialist forms of language
which they need as they progress in the education path.
Complexity of language in Mathematics and Science
A report prepared by the Australian Department of Education highlights
27 Etems: The Implications On Learners
the complexity of the language in Mathematics and Science. It states
that the language of Mathematics is complex and is not similar to
everyday language. It consists of specialist vocabulary, precisions and
the use of symbols. Students learning Mathematics have to identify
the word function before they are able to identify how mathematical
problems can be solved. They also have to verbalise mathematical
statements, putting words into symbols and graphs. They also have to
work with lengthy descriptors and dense mathematical concepts. The
report also states that teachers tend to make a lot of assumptions that
students are able to understand the words despite the fact that some
words may be too complex for students to understand on their own.
The report also states that the language used for Science
subjects comprises of a large vocabulary of technical terms, which
have to be clarifed to the students. In relation to the above, ETeMS
training programs should not only focus on grading teachers’ language
competency but also focus on strategies to help teachers deal with
the language complexity of Mathematics and Science.
Development in language across curriculum
The concept of teaching through English, not in English is advocated
by David Marsh, a British educator and leading expert on Content and
Language Integrated Learning, when he addressed how Mathematics
and Science can be best taught to teachers attending the Third TED-
ELTC (Teaching Education Division-English Language Teaching
Centre Ior the Teaching oI Mathematics and Science) ConIerence
2007, organised by the Education Ministry’s Teachers Education.
Marsh emphasised that teaching through English means making
students conceptualise the lesson in English. This is possible when
English becomes the medium of instruction. Besides receiving
instruction in the English language, teaching through English also
allows students to receive instructions and think in their mother tongue
and while solving the problems in the English language. Though the
concept has invited controversies, it has proven to be successful in
28 Research In English Language Teaching
The future of ETeMS
Though some quarters felt the teaching of Mathematics and Science
should be taught in the national language, the conclusion drawn from
the Malaysian English Language Teaching Association (MELTA)
National Colloquium on the teaching oI Mathematics and Science
in English (Dec. 2007) shows that the present policy of teaching
these subjects in English should be continued. The participants of
the colloquium agreed that there is a need to continuously improve
students’ English and learning these core subjects in the English
language is a worthwhile strategy to meet the objective.
Reverting to teaching Mathematics and Science in the
national language may cause the country to be unheard of, in the
international platform. In fact, it only results in students failing to
perform globally because of the language barrier. In line with this,
concerted efforts have to be taken to ensure that the aim of teaching
Mathematics and Science is successfully achieved. These include
designing more effective strategies in preparing teachers who are
supposed to bring the change with adequate language and teaching
skills, improving classroom instructions, enhancing teacher-student
interactions, monitoring teachers’ and students’ progress with better
mechanisms and encouraging specialisation among teachers. More
user-friendly handbooks should be provided to the teachers involved
to help them overcome their problems. Engaging content specialists
as trainers and providing motivational incentives are also among the
suggestions given by the participants of the colloquium as solutions
to overcome related challenges.
The study was conducted in a boarding school in Johor. This school
has charted a number of achievements in the academic performance of
students in SPM examinations, at the national levels, in recent years.
29 Etems: The Implications On Learners
For instance, the school produced the highest number of students
getting all A’s in the SPM several years ago. The subjects of the study
are Form Four students of the school. The study was conducted at
the end of 2006, whereby these students have had about four years
of learning Mathematics and Science in English.
The research instrument used was questionnaires, with fIty
sets of questionnaires distributed to male and female students from
ten different classes, all comprising learners of with similar levels
of academic ability. These learners enrolled in the boarding school
after achieving excellent results in their P.M.R. (Penilaian Menengah
Thus, the subjects of the study were high-achievers
academically but were not necessarily profcient in English, although
they all scored A’s in English at the P.M.R. level. These respondents
came from diverse family backgrounds; with parents working in
different professions such as managers, accountants, teachers,
labourers and drivers. These fIty subjects who participated in the
study were selected at random, from the ten different Form Four
Of 50 questionnaires sent out, 44 were returned. The
questionnaires were a combination of four-point Likert-scale items
and open-ended items. The items were related to the learners’
perceptions of how learning Mathematics and Science in English had
affected them academically.
In the questionnaires, the term ‘Mathematics’ was taken to
mean both the Additional Mathematics and Mathematics subjects
while the term ‘Science’ denotes the three Science subjects taken
by Form Four learners, i.e. Physics, Chemistry and Biology. This
explanation was included in the questionnaire given to the Form
FINDINGS OF THE STUDY
30 Research In English Language Teaching
The implications of ETeMS on Learners’ Performance in
Mathematics and Science
One oI the benefts oI Mathematics and Science being taught in
English is that the explanation of concepts comes off easier when
illustrated in English. Sixteen of the 44 (36.4%) respondents felt that
it was easier for them to understand the mathematical and science
concepts if they are explained in English compared to the national
language. This is probably due to the familiarity with the terms used
in English as they had been studying these subjects in English for
four years. Not only did these students feel it was easier to study these
subjects in English, six of them also revealed that their academic
performance in Mathematics and Science subjects had improved as
a result of studying these subjects in English.
These fndings show that iI a student is equipped with a good
command oI English, the explanation oI scientifc concepts is easy
to follow when it is delivered in English. In the national language,
the explanation oI scientifc concepts sometimes becomes a bit
long-winded. Sometimes, the text in the national language is a literal
translation of the original text which is initially conveyed in English.
Hence, it is not surprising that the explanation is clearer in its authentic
form. Thus, learners with excellent English would be the ones who
get to appreciate the language and visualise the content of the text.
Although some learners felt positive about learning
Mathematics and Science in English, there were some students who
were not too happy with the move. Nine of the 44 (20.45%) students
complained that their performance in the Mathematics and Science
subjects had deteriorated since the subjects were taught in English.
They attributed this to the Iact that their lack oI profciency in English
had made it all the more diIfcult to understand the explanations oI
science concepts in English. Inaccurate comprehension of facts and
information was formed as a result of their imperfect English.
It appears then that the number of learners who performed
worse (i.e. nine of 44 subjects) outnumbered those who performed
better (i.e. six of 44 subjects) in Mathematics and Science after
31 Etems: The Implications On Learners
the regulation to teach these subjects in English was introduced.
This possibly indicates that the academic performance of students
in Mathematics and Science subjects, had deteriorated for some,
after this move was made. This happened despite the fact that all
these respondents have a good command of the English language,
considering they had all obtained A’s in the English language paper
The Implications of ETeMS on Learners` Language Proñciency
On whether the students felt that their English language had
improved as a result of the greater exposure to the language now
that Mathematics and Science subjects are also taught in English,
the fndings can be expected. The fndings are almost unanimous in
which 43 of the 44 respondents admitted that their command of the
language has defnitely improved.
The only respondent who declared that her English did
not improve despite the greater effort to teach students in English
appeared to be a student who has a strong dislike for the language. The
respondent stated that she did not like learning Math and Science in
English and that she felt it has been a problem and a big disadvantage
for her. She also felt that the teaching of these subjects should be
conducted in the national language and text books for these subjects
should also be written in the national language.
On whether the students’ grades in English exams had
improved as a consequence of this regulation, 21 of 44 (47.7 %)
respondents stated that their English grades had improved. They
related this to the fact that the move to teach Math and Science in
English had offered them more opportunities to learn the language.
If prior to the introduction of this regulation in schools, learners were
only exposed to learning the language during English lessons, now,
the move has offered them greater exposure to the language. Not
only are they are now learning English in English classes, but they
are also gaining more familiarity with the language that is used to
teach Mathematics, Additional Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry and
32 Research In English Language Teaching
Biology lessons as well. Thus, the increased exposure has defnitely
led to increased performances in their English exams.
Students’ Level of Enjoyment of Learning Mathematics and
Science in English
25 of these 44 students (56.8%) revealed that they enjoyed learning
Mathematics and Science in English while 9 (20.5%) confessed
that they did not like learning these subjects in English and would
have preferred, the national language instead as the medium of
instruction for these subjects. One respondent did not respond to this
questionnaire item on whether he liked Mathematics and Science
being taught in English. This probably meant that he was indecisive
and did not mind either language be used as the medium of instruction
for the Mathematics and Science subjects.
On whether the students Ielt it was easy or diIfcult learning
Mathematics and Science in English, 25 out of 44 (56.8%) admitted
it is actually diIfcult while 16 (36.4°) Ielt that this was an easy task.
Two respondents, however, could not decide iI it is easy or diIfcult
learning Mathematics and Science in English, while one respondent
stated that it is both an easy and diIfcult task. This shows that the
students had mixed feelings on this issue. However, there was a
higher number of students who perceived learning Mathematics and
Science in English as diIfcult as opposed to those who viewed it as
easy. Nonetheless, students who confessed to this being a tough chore
admitted that they were able to take the challenges in their stride
because they wanted to prepare themselves for bigger challenges
which lie ahead, such as equipping themselves with good language
skills to study abroad.
Causes of difñculty in learning Mathematics and Science subjects
When asked for the factors that made learning these subjects in
English diIfcult, 19 learners oI the 44 subjects (43.2 °) were oI the
33 Etems: The Implications On Learners
opinion that they were hindered by their own lack oI profciency in
English. An equal number of learners, i.e. 19 of them felt that learning
these subjects in English had been tough because their teachers did
not have a suIfcient level oI English language profciency to make
the lessons easy for them. This shows that the learners attributed the
diIfculty in learning Mathematics and Science subjects in English
to their own limitations, and those of their teachers.
This study concludes that 36.4% of the learners found it easier
to understand the mathematical and science concepts in English
compared to the national language. Very few learners; i.e. 6 out of 44
learners, felt that their Mathematics and Science grades had improved
as a result of learning these subjects in English. In fact, 20.5 % of
the learners complained that their Mathematics and Science grades
had taken a plunge due to this regulation to teach Mathematics and
Science in English.
On a more positive note, a majority of the learners, i.e. 47.7 %
revealed that their English profciency had improved with this move.
This is a positive fnding as almost halI the respondents` English had
improved as a result of this national policy. Another positive impact
of this gesture introduced by the Education Ministry was that most
learners (56.8%) enjoyed learning Mathematics and Science in
English. Only 20.5% of the subjects would have wanted to revert to
the former scenario in classrooms where Mathematics and Science
subjects were taught in the national language.
On whether learning these subjects in English have been
an easy task, the respondents had mixed reactions. Most (56.8%),
however, found learning Mathematics and Science in English, a
daunting task. Those who viewed it as a challenge attributed the
diIfculty to two Iactors: their and their teachers` lack oI profciency
34 Research In English Language Teaching
Because learners’ English had generally improved, we feel that this
regulation to teach Mathematics and Science subjects in English
should be retained. This study also found that most learners had
enjoyed learning Mathematics and Science in English and would
have preferred to learn these subjects in English, compared to the
national language. This provides more reason to continue teaching
these subjects in English.
However, these recommendations are useful in so far as
the learners are good learners with a suIfcient level oI English
profciency. Where learners in rural schools are concerned, we Ieel
that more studies should be carried out to determine if this move is
viable and for that, more investigations need to be done to assess the
real problems and challenges faced by learners and teachers in such
Chin, S.T. (2007) English, a must to go ahead. The Star.December
Marsh, D. The 3rd TED-ELTC (Teaching Education Division-
English Language Teaching Center Ior the Teaching oI
Mathematics and Science) ConIerence 2007. Organised by
the Education Ministry’s Teachers Education. Seremban.
Foong, C.K. (2004) The English Ior the Teaching oI Mathematics
and Science (ETeMS) Modules http://eltcm.org.eltc/index_
Ganakumaran Subramanium and Mardziah Hayati Abdullah
(2007). Concerted effort needed. The Star. December 23,
Language for understanding as a perspective (1997). Language
35 Etems: The Implications On Learners
Ior Understanding Curriculum Support Paper, Australian
Capital Territory, Department oI Education and Training
and Children`s Youth and Family Services Bureau
ETeMS, Bahasa Malaysia, Mathematics and Science, language
profciency, medium oI instruction
37 Teachers’ Perceptions of Literature Circle as
A Technique to Teach Creative Writing Using Literary Texts
TEACHERS’ PERCEPTIONS OF
LITERATURE CIRCLE AS
A TECHNIQUE TO TEACH CREATIVE
WRITING USING LITERARY TEXTS
ADLINA BT ABDUL SAMAD
MARZILAH BT A.AZIZ
TINA BT. ABDULLAH
This paper highlights fndings oI a workshop based on responses
given by practicing teachers on the use oI Literature Circles (LC) as
a technique to develop students` creative writing skills. It uncovers
teaching techniques that have been used by teachers to promote and
enhance students` writing skill using literature as a resource. The other
issue initiated in this paper is the teachers` opinion on the suitability
and practicality oI applying Literature Circles in their classroom.
The overall response shows that, prior to the workshop session,
the teachers have used conventional methods in their classroom.
Interestingly, it is discovered that they are very receptive oI the idea oI
using the technique introduced in the workshop despite the challenges
they may Iace in their classes.
Background of the workshop
38 Research In English Language Teaching
This paper describes a 3 hour workshop that was designed to help
teachers improve their students` writings in English using English
literature as a learning resource. It was conducted based on a request
made by the head panel oI the English Language Unit oI SMTP
(Teknik Perdagangan Johor). The request was based on three (3) prior
meetings between members oI the English Language Unit oI Sekolah
Menengah Teknik Perdagangan (SMTP) and lecturers Irom a public
university in the southern region oI Malaysia. The aim oI the meetings
was to identiIy a suitable topic Ior a workshop Iocusing on creative
writing and how it can be directly linked to English Literature.
The workshop was conducted by an instructor and two
Iacilitators who are very much interested in promoting the teaching
oI English Literature as part oI language learning. The instructor has
a doctoral degree in Education Irom Western Australia and has been
teaching English language profciency courses as well as literature in
the university. One oI the Iacilitators who has a Masters degree Irom the
United States oI America had taught literature and also methodology
course Ior Literature in ELT Ior more than 10 years and is currently
pursuing her doctoral degree Iocusing on the teaching oI literature
among the Malaysian language learners. The second Iacilitator has
been trained to teach literature at Nottingham University and had
taught in Malaysian schools beIore joining the public university as
an English language teacher. As a newly appointed lecturer at the
university, she is required to teach profciency courses as well as her
area oI expertise, which is English Literature.
The purpose oI the proposed workshop was to have
collaborations between teachers and the workshop Iacilitators to
explore in depth current practices in the teaching oI literature as an
English learning resource specifcally aimed at enhancing students`
creative writing skills. The inIormation exchanged between the two
parties served as valuable inIormation in identiIying the current
methods used by the teachers and the eIIectiveness oI the methods
employed. The other aim was to seek the teachers` opinions on a more
innovative technique called literature`s circles that was introduced
by the instructor. Furthermore, the workshop was also used to obtain
39 Teachers’ Perceptions of Literature Circle as
A Technique to Teach Creative Writing Using Literary Texts
teachers` perspectives on using this technique and their willingness
or reluctance to adopt the technique in their classrooms in the near
The workshop was initiated, supported and approved by the
SMTP principal. The permission granted by the principal has allowed
the English Language Unit oI SMTP to organise the workshop at a
large scale involving all technical schools in Johor, Malaysia. The
unit had invited all English language teachers Irom technical schools
in the southern region to attend the workshop. Incentives were given
to these teachers such as travelling allowance and meals to encourage
their commitment and participation in the workshop. There were 23
oI them. The workshop was held at SMTP`s Bilik Gerakan which
was equipped with individual microphone Ior participants, fip chart,
white board, LCD projectors and air-conditioning. The workshop
was conducted on a Saturday, which was a non working day Ior
the teachers. Turnout was encouraging as all technical schools in
the southern region had sent a representative each to attend this
workshop. The schools and the teachers had shown support to the
organizers and most importantly, their preconceived idea was that
the workshop would be very relevant Ior the teachers. The workshop
had indeed Iulflled their needs to be creative in their teaching, and
their positive responses to the workshop will be discussed Iurther in
the post-workshop section oI this paper.
The initial concern oI the discussion expressed by the
organisers oI the workshop was on how to develop creative writing
skill among technical schools. They highlighted the key issue that
this skill is very much needed as creative writing is one oI the tested
components Ior the English language paper. The importance oI this
paper is due to the Iact that it is one oI the components oI a very
prestigious public examination, Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) Ior all
Form Five secondary school students in Malaysia. The main worry oI
the English language unit oI SMTP members was that the students lack
creative writing skills and this has caused consistent disappointing
perIormances in the English language paper. The chain reaction oI
doing badly in the paper has resulted in a drop in the overall SPM
40 Research In English Language Teaching
perIormance Ior students studying in these technical schools. The
other concern was mainly that the poor results oI their English paper
could reduce the students` chances oI studying courses oI their choice
such as engineering, architecture etc and getting a place to study in
established higher learning institutions. During these discussions
the organisers and the workshop presenters decided on introducing
a practical technique to merge teaching creative writing with English
Literature to help resolve this predicament.
As part oI the preparation Ior the workshop, the materials on
using literature Ior teaching writing, techniques oI using literature
circle and teachers perceptions about the workshop were prepared.
The preparation included preparing Power Point slides about how and
why it is necessary to engage learners to write using literary texts. In
addition, two sets oI questionnaire were used Ior this survey, namely
the pre and post workshop survey .For the pre workshop survey,
questions were designed to fnd out the teachers` current opinions on
using literature as a tool to develop creative skills among students.
As Ior the post workshop survey, the aim was to fnd out their opinion
on the idea oI using literature as a tool to develop creative skills
among students using a literature circle technique introduced by the
The organisers and workshop presenters intended Ior the
session to be an enjoyable and practical experience, thus the workshop
was more oI a sharing session rather than a theoretical-based
discussion. The main aim was Ior the teachers to interact positively
and present constructive criticisms about their personal experience
in teaching literature aimed at improving writing skills. As teachers`
readiness was the prime Iactor in making them share their experience,
the workshop was conducted in a non threatening manner whereby
the teachers were treated as colleagues and comments were always
welcom. They were also asked to have group discussions and make
notes about their Ieelings being negative or positive with reIerence to
the use oI literature circle while their identity remained anonymous.
The workshop has served as an eIIective sharing platIorm Ior teacher
to voice their concern on the technique introduced in the workshop.
41 Teachers’ Perceptions of Literature Circle as
A Technique to Teach Creative Writing Using Literary Texts
They were also encouraged to respond to the instructors at any point
oI time should they have opinions, doubts and enquiries on related
issues. The Iacilitators monitored the discussion Irom a distant
while at the same time encouraged the teachers to refect on their
normal classroom practice when teaching literature. This strategy
allows the teachers to express Ireely about sensitive issues such as
the suitability oI the technique introduced by the instructor in relation
to the students` ability and school expectation iI they were to apply
the technique in their class.
WHAT IS LITERATURE CIRCLE?
The Literature Circle was developed by Harvey Daniels (1994). It
began when a team oI teachers and researchers in Chicago started to
develop a model with a concept based on the centuries-old tradition
oI adult book clubs` or reading groups.` This model, however, was
developed Ior native speakers oI the language (L1) who are either in
the elementary secondary schools. The concept was fnally developed
aIter Daniels (2002) and his colleagues experienced diIfculty in
teaching literature to L1 students in schools in the United States. They
claimed that the students would rate the literature courses as the least
Iavourite, most diIfcult or most hated courses in school.
While Daniels (2002) and his colleagues were launching
the Literature Circle in their classrooms in Chicago, a talk-show
host named Oprah WinIrey had also attempted to host and publicise
literature discussion groups comprising oI selected authors and
members oI the public on television. As a result oI the publicity,
Furr (2004) believed that 'Suddenly, it was once again cool to read
literature and talk about it with Iriends.¨
Presently, the Literature Circles model is not only adapted Ior
the teaching and learning oI literature in elementary and secondary
schools in the United States. In Iact, it has expanded and is now part
oI many programmes and classrooms in other countries like Australia
42 Research In English Language Teaching
(Bales, 2002), Finland (Kankaanranta, 2007) and Canada (Daniel,
2004). It has also been established at university level to train students
majoring in literature, English, and the Teaching oI the English
Language as a Second or Foreign Language in other countries like
Japan (Furr, 2004) and Taiwan (Hsu, 2004).
The Literature Circle model was originally designed Ior native
language elementary and secondary school learners (Daniels, 2000)
and was developed based on small reading groups that will contain
most oI these Ieatures (Daniels, 2000):-
Students choose their own materials.
Small temporary groups are Iormed, based on book choice.
DiIIerent groups read diIIerent books.
When books are fnished, readers share with their classmates
and then Iorm new groups Ior new reading.
Groups meet on a regular, predictable schedule to discuss
Students use written or drawn notes to guide both their
reading and their discussion.
Discussion topics come Irom the students.
Group meetings aim to be open, natural conversations about
books, so personal connections, digressions and open-ended
questions are welcome.
The teacher serves as the Iacilitator, not a group member or
Evaluation is by teacher observation and student-selI
A spirit oI playIulness and Iun pervades the room.
On the contrary, based on Furr`s (2004) own experience using
Literature Circles in Japan, Ior Literature Circles to work among non-
native speakers oI the language such as those English as a Second
Language (ESL) or English as a Foreign Language (EFL) students,
the model needed to be altered.
43 Teachers’ Perceptions of Literature Circle as
A Technique to Teach Creative Writing Using Literary Texts
Furr (2004: 3) suggested that,
to conduct successful Literature Circles in the EFL classroom,
I have replacea the hrst four of Daniels Key Ingreaients
with the following.
Instructors select materials appropriate Ior their student
Small temporary groups are Iormed, based on students`
choice or the Instructor`s direction.
DiIIerent groups are usually reading the same text.
When books are fnished, readers may prepare a group project
and/or the Instructor may provide additional inIormation to
fll in some oI the gaps in student understanding I call this
step back loading the instruction. AIter the group projects
or additional instruction, new groups are Iormed, based on
student choice or the Instructor`s discretion.
The changes made to the original Literature Circle model was
basically crucial to allow teachers to choose appropriate literary texts
based on their students` language profciency level (Furr, 2004). Apart
Irom that, he recommended that Ior Literature Circle to work well
Ior EFL students, teachers should ask students to read and discuss
several stories within the Literature Circle beIore positive results can
Literature Circle promotes group work that would Ioster
rapport and team eIIort among members as well as providing an
opportunity Ior everyone to converse in a more natural environment
(Day et al., 2002). This is especially useIul compared to class
discussions since language learners may learn to collaborate and
cooperate with one another to enhance learning in a non-intimidating
context. The interdependence oI members in the LC could be Iormed
by assigning specifc roles and tasks related to the literary text which
requires the contribution oI each member to develop an in-depth
understanding oI the given literary text.
44 Research In English Language Teaching
The process oI Iorming a LC includes the identifcation oI
literary texts, Iorming groups oI 4-6 students, an overview oI the
working dynamics oI a LC, designing role sheets suitable Ior the text,
which are interchangeable roles Ior every member in the group dealing
with diIIerent types oI literary texts, such as discussion director,
vocabulary enricher, literary luminary, connector, illustrator, cultural
expert and checker. Each role is assigned to each member and to be
used as a guide during the learning process as well as reIerences Ior
the next literary circle task. Orientation oI behaviour and expectations
oI group members must be explained and members must adhere to the
etiquette oI giving equal opportunity to every member to participate
in the group. This can be viewed as a jigsaw puzzle and each member
in the group hold an important piece and without their contribution,
the jigsaw puzzle could not be completed.
While the initial goal oI incorporating the literature component into
the English language syllabus Ior secondary school was to assist
language acquisition through the cultivation oI aesthetic appreciation
(Subramaniam, 2003), the teachers also hoped that through literature,
they could generate and promote creative writing skills among
students Irom technical schools. On that note, the responses given by
the teachers Ior the pre workshop survey suggested that the teachers
have used varied techniques to teach literature in the classroom. The
responses were as Iollows:
'through video watching Ior short stories and novels¨
'introduce the poems stanza by stanza¨
'encourage students to brainstorm the title Ior a starting¨
'story telling, predicting, recalling, reporting the incident,
-diIIerent genre directed writing, newspaper report/
45 Teachers’ Perceptions of Literature Circle as
A Technique to Teach Creative Writing Using Literary Texts
'news paper cutting and article¨
'QA sessions, chalk and talk¨
'chalk and talk, using LCD, handouts¨
'bottom-up approach-cover the literature bit by bit¨
'rote learning-students read, understand,
later memorise the plot¨
'using mind-maps, using drill questions,
using CD-Roms that provide visuals¨
The above Iindings demonstrate that the teachers have
employed teaching techniques that were very much infuenced by the
ELT pedagogy where activities are centered on overall comprehension
attainment or recognition oI specifc inIormation Irom the literary
texts and not techniques that would cultivate their engagement in
meaning making or their aesthetic appreciation oI the language used.
Apart Irom that, the techniques used appeared to be more teacher-
centred, providing little opportunity Ior students to delve into their
personal engagement and individual responses to literature. Habsah
(2006: 2) argued that,
Although it is statea in the national Curriculum Specihcation
that the classroom shoula be a place for nurturing young
minas in which stuaents are expectea to acquire knowleage
that can elevate their levels of thinking. teachers knowleage
ana beliefs about their teaching ana their stuaents neeas
ana abilities inßuence the way they implement national
eaucational policies in their teaching
This may result in teachers having diIfculty getting students
to treat literature as a means oI expressing their imagination and
creativity. The fndings also suggest that the Iocus oI the literature
lesson was more on mastering the literature content rather than using
literature as a tool to develop language acquisition. For example,
during the discussion, some oI the teachers revealed the Iact that they
46 Research In English Language Teaching
preIerred to employ techniques that best prepare students to answer
the literature paper Ior public examination (SPM). Evidently the
fndings reveal that, 'The teaching oI literature has lacked a consistent
methodology Ior presentation¨ ( Long, 2000). According to Brumft
& Carter (2000),
The literary syllabus itself shoula have two broaa stages,
with the secona one an option for those who wish to go on
to become self-conscious about the process. The hrst stage
will be concernea with enabling stuaents to experience
literature; the second will enable them to describe, explain
or otherwise account for the experience. But in our view,
the error of much literature teaching is that, in practice, it
reverses this process.
As Ior the responses given by the teachers in the pre workshop
survey on how they developed students` creative writing skills through
literature, the responses are as Iollows:
'by asking them to make simple sentences out oI the text/
poem learnt to come out with something similar, drilling¨
'ask students to use the plot oI the story to write an essay¨
'give them fll the blanks` exercises¨
'composing a short passage by using brainstormed points
being discussed in the class
'discuss the questions, do the outline with them. They will
develop the outline into an essay¨
'by asking students to answer situation questions and discuss
the outline with them
-making use lit. works in writing class¨
-'introducing outline, training students to diIIerentiate main
ideas and elaboration
-'parallel writing, expansion oI notes¨
-'by asking students to read a lot oI sample answers and then
47 Teachers’ Perceptions of Literature Circle as
A Technique to Teach Creative Writing Using Literary Texts
Although Day et al. (2002) and Langer (1990) claimed that
when students are given the opportunity to write about what they
read; they will not be merely recalling inIormation read but will also
be able to remember, analyse and synthesise better, the fndings on
the other hand confrm that the teachers have Iavoured low-order
thinking activities in their attempt to develop their students` writing
skills through the use oI literature. In doing so, they have not Iully
utilised literature as a learning resource. The richness oI the language
as well as the humanistic and cultural craItsmanship portrayed in
the literary texts have not been Iully exploited by the teachers thus
lessening the chance to develop their students` intellectual capacity as
well as creativity in the target language. The appreciation oI contents
and language use in literary texts are the two needed elements Ior
POST – WORKSHOP SURVEY
In this workshop, participants were requested to answer a simple
questionnaire in relation to their perceptions about the workshop
and how they would rank the workshop in terms oI its useIulness.
The Iocus oI the workshop is to share diIIerent experiences in
teaching English literature among teachers who indicated that they
wanted to use literature as a means to teach students writing in the
context oI learning. Issues regarding the diIIerent techniques that
can help students write creatively, develop confdence in writing and
techniques Ior group discussions specifcally Ior teaching literature
were discussed during the workshop. Besides techniques Ior teaching,
practical techniques used by teachers such as monitoring activities,
selections oI texts and introduction to writing were also shared during
The participants ranked highly the technique discussed to
develop creative writing skills using literature as a learning source.
Only one participant ranked the workshop as average whereas in the
48 Research In English Language Teaching
other teachers ranked the workshop as very good. The questionnaire
was aimed at fnding out iI the workshop about using literature circles
could be very useIul Ior the teachers oI English to use in the classroom.
The results discussed above indicated that the workshop has provided
some constructive methods to assist teachers in improving their
teaching techniques and attract more students to be interested in
English Literature by making the lessons 'user-Iriendly¨.
The majority oI these teachers said that the techniques
introduced during the workshop were useIul. Some oI the comments
given were as Iollows:
'Yes, because it provided me with other techniques to
approach teaching literature¨
'Yes, because it is an interesting technique. It is useIul to
practice in our teaching.¨
'Yes, I do but they are only suitable Ior good students.`
'Yes, they will progress in the lesson.¨
'They are useIul because they are learner centred.
'Certainly yes! I will apply this method.¨
'Yes. it sounds and looks manageable. The possibility oI
its workability is high.¨
'.because it engages each and every student.¨
'Yes, an alternative way oI teaching.¨
'It`s good. However, it`s not really applicable in the real
classroom. Teachers are too confned to the syllabus.¨
'But it is useIul in upgrading their skills in writing.¨
'UseIul iI there`s not much problems with the student`s
'It is useIul., but Ior the weaker students, it may need some
changes here and there, perhaps.¨
'Yes, it is very useIul. But depends oI the student`s profciency
'Absolutely very useIul. This technique will give a second
chance to my students (next year especially) to see 'Literature
and Writing as interesting worlds oI experience.¨
49 Teachers’ Perceptions of Literature Circle as
A Technique to Teach Creative Writing Using Literary Texts
The overall response to the technique was very positive and
the teachers said that using literature circle would be a very useIul
technique Ior teaching writing and linking it to the literature lessons.
The technique discussed in the workshop has provided teachers with
a diIIerent perspective oI using writing specifcally drawing Irom
the students own literature exposure. In the workshop a gradual
introduction to literature in terms oI developing skills in reading
in context and beyond, building vocabulary, engaging personal
experience and culture related to the literature in use as well as
Iocusing on the specifcs used Ior literature are introduced to the
students. Basically, the use oI literature circle is a dynamics oI team
work whereby each student is assigned a role and their contribution
is important and needed in order to complete a given task.
In terms oI practicality, the teachers Ielt that the issues oI
students` profciency, time, syllabus requirements and exam oriented
objectives were the reason that may prevent them Irom using literature
in their teaching. A common perception among these teachers is that
the technique is practical Ior advanced and average students but the
weaker ones would not be able to do so because one oI the teachers
mentioned 'They can`t even read in English¨ . One teacher disagreed
with the technique because '.we have to Iollow the syllabus
provided,¨ while another said that 'The school system in Malaysia is
exam-oriented .¨ and these are valid arguments. However, another
teacher Ielt that '.they are really up to the teachers` creativity.¨ which
shows that the pros and cons oI using the technique can be resolved
by individual teachers who are willing to make changes within the
constraints that they have. There is also a preoccupation with time
Iactor because one teacher said that it was 'practical but very time
consuming to do it in class.¨ and a request Ior more time by saying
'Yes. But ample time is needed.¨ Some oI the reasons listed above
show that these teachers are receptive to the literature circle as a
technique to teach writing but they will need to make improvements
and changes during preparation beIore and aIter the lessons.
The next part oI the post-workshop questionnaire asked about
ideas on improvements to be made to the technique and one oI the
50 Research In English Language Teaching
responses highlighted that the Iocus is to fnd an ideal technique Ior
teaching literature to weak learners and having more workshops
specifcally Ior this purpose. There was a suggestion by a teacher
about introducing more visuals using cartoons, movies, pictures and
comics as part oI the technique. Another good suggestion was to have
group presentations and discussions as well as Ieedback sessions as
a way to increase interactions between teachers and their students.
There were suggestions to do a longer workshop instead oI three
hours because the teachers wanted to learn more techniques with
hands on experience as many commented that they have never tried
this technique beIore. Some oI the statements refecting this view
such as '.haven`t tried the techniques.¨ and 'Two hours is not
suIfcient.¨ One interesting comment was that a teacher requested that
the techniques introduced should be '.more school-Iriendly instead
oI college Iriendly.¨ This statement showed that the teacher thought
the technique was not meant Ior schools because the creativity and
fexibility in institutions oI higher learning allows changes to be made
to the syllabus without conIorming to the national syllabus. This is
supported by another comment made by a teacher saying 'Make it
more suitable with the school syllabus.¨ which highlighted the Iact
that the actual classroom practice needs to be taken into account prior
to implementing literature circle in the classroom.
The fnal section in the questionnaire sought to identiIy the
diIIerent challenges iI the teachers were to implement the literature
circle technique in the classroom. The common worries Iaced by these
teachers are related to time issues, syllabus, number oI students in a
class, students` commitments and interaction, lack oI participation,
teacher-dependent, changing the mindset oI students, management
policies and need Ior a step by step guide in the initial learning and
issues oI other administrative works delegated to these teachers.
The challenges are issues that should be used as the basis Ior Iurther
research leading to improvements in use oI literature circle in the
classroom. These constraints listed by the participants oI the workshop
showed that they are committed to improve teaching and learning oI
literature in school but are voicing their needs Ior support in order to
51 Teachers’ Perceptions of Literature Circle as
A Technique to Teach Creative Writing Using Literary Texts
help them help students learn and appreciate English literature so as
to improve the current situation with regards to teaching and learning
this subject in schools.
The workshop presenters have managed to show teachers oI English
how to incorporate literature texts as part oI teaching creative writing.
The responses given by them show that many are not aware oI
Literature Circles (LC) and its potential as a powerIul and practical
technique Ior teaching a language. They have indicated that they are
willing to try LC in their classes and are looking Iorward to have
more sessions similar to the workshop.
Bales, J. (2002). Gary crew- Live online. A Jirtual Interview in
LC_MOO. Orana. 38. Issue 2.
Brumft, C. J & Carter, R. A. (2000). Literature ana Language
Teaching. Hong Kong: OUP
Daniels,H.(1994) Literature Circles. Joice ana Choice in the
Stuaent-Centrea Classroom. Portland, Maine: Stenhouse.
Daniels,H.(2002) Literature Circles. Joice ana Choice in Book
Clubs & Reaaing Groups. Second Edition. Portland, Maine:
Daniels, H. (2004). Literature Circles. Getting Them Startea
52 Research In English Language Teaching
ana Keeping Them Going. In Nancy Steineke (Ed.) Reaaing
& Writing Together. Collaborative Literacy in Action.
Portsmouth: Heinemann. 130-190.
Day, J. P. et al. (2002). Moving Forwara with Literature Circles.
Ney York: Scholastic
Furr, M. (2004). Literature Circles for the EFL Classroom.
Proceedings oI the 2003 TESOL Arabia Conference. TESOL
Hsu, Jeng-Yih Tim. (2004). Reaaing without teachers. Literature
Circles in an EFL Classroom. Paper presented at the Cross
strait conference on English Eaucation.
Kankaaranta,M. (2005). Innovative Peaagogical Practices in
Technology-Enhancea Eaucation-Finnish Perspective
¦Online} Available: http://e.fnland.f.netcomm/news
Langer, J. (1990). The process of unaerstanaing. Reaaing for
literary ana informative purposes. Research in the Teaching
of English, 24(3), 229-257.
Long, M. N. (2000). A Feeing for Language. The Multiple Jalues
of Teaching Literature. In Brumft & Carter (Eds.). Literature
ana Language Teaching. Hong Kong: OUP
Subramaniam, G. (2003). Literature Programmes in Malaysian
Schools. A Historical Overview. In Ganakumaran
Subramaniam and Malachi Edwin Vethamani (Eds.) Teaching
of Literature in ESL/EFL Contexts. MELTA. 27-48. Petaling
Habsah Hussin. (2006). Dimensions oI Questioning: A Qualitative
Study oI Current Classroom Practice in Malaysia.
TESL-EJ. 10, 2. Retrieved on 22/12/2008. Available at:
53 Literature in English Language Teaching: A Revisit in the Malaysian Contex
LITERATURE IN ENGLISH
LANGUAGE TEACHING: AREVISIT
IN THE MALAYSIAN CONTEXT
MARZILAH ABDUL AZIZ
When literature was frst incorporated as a tested component in the
English language syllabus at secondary school level in Malaysia, the
local research community provided some insights into the challenges
and issues in relation to the move. It has now been more than eight
years since literature was introduced and this paper attempts to revisit
the situation by describing the overall learning needs oI current
language learners and their perceptions oI the use oI literature in
learning English. These needs are matched with the expectations
and perceptions oI teachers who have become accustomed to using
literature as a resource to teach the language. A survey was carried
out at various secondary schools in the area oI Johor Bahru. Two
sets oI questionnaires were designed and distributed to two groups
oI respondents, who are secondary school students and the English
language teachers Irom the same schools. Based on the data obtained,
the fndings Irom the two groups oI respondents were matched to
seek the current perception oI the use oI literature in the teaching and
learning oI English. The overall fndings oI the study indicated that
both students and teachers were positive about the use oI literature
in English language instruction.
54 Research In English Language Teaching
The debate on the role oI literature in language instruction has
obviously gone through signifcant revolutions (Premawardhena,
2006; Delanoy, 1997). At the beginning, under the infuence oI the
Formalists and Structuralists, literature was given much attention in
language teaching. According to Thakur (2003), the teaching oI the
English language was synonymous with the teaching oI literature
beIore the world war. It was treated as a model oI excellent language
use and a source oI high moral value that emphasised the study oI
literary canon oI the target language. In other words, literature was
taught as the body oI knowledge or subject matter that dominated the
language syllabus (Carroli, 2002).
The situation nevertheless changed aIter the British
colonisation period ended (Thakur, 2003). As a result oI the change in
English language status, literature, which was once treated as a source
oI high moral value, no longer held its special status. Meanwhile,
literature was separated Irom language teaching when advocators oI
the Functional Approach argued to eliminate literature Irom language
teaching (Delanoy, 1997). They contended that the use oI literature
in language teaching was a long way Irom meeting the needs oI the
language learners. The trend to disengage, and at the same time, unite
literature with language teaching and learning continued when the
Communicative Approach to language teaching was established in
the 1970s. Through the Communicative language teaching method,
authentic literary texts were initially regarded to supply learners
with representational use oI the language,` (Carter, 2007). However
many materials and textbooks designed using the method Iocused
only on specifc language Ieatures and Iunctions with minimal use oI
the authenticity oI literary language in the teaching and learning oI a
language (Liddicoat & Crozet, 2000; Newman & Pujol, 1996).
Nevertheless, literature gradually reestablished its grounds
in language teaching Irom the 1980s through the new evolution oI
Applied Linguistics and Literary Theory (Thakur, 2003). From then
on, literature has once again made its way into language instruction.
55 Literature in English Language Teaching: A Revisit in the Malaysian Contex
This time however, it does not dominate the language instruction,
instead its Iunction has changed to become a resource Ior language
teaching and learning (Lazar, 2005), an authentic reservoir Ior
linguistic exploration into stylistic and discourse analysis (Carter,
2007), semiotics and multimodalities as well as corpus studies.
The renewed interest in the use oI literature in language
teaching has attracted many language syllabus planners and
practitioners to turn to literature as an alternative resource Ior the
teaching oI languages. In the year 2000, the Ministry oI Education
in Malaysia decided to integrate literature as a tested component
in the English language secondary school syllabus (Subramaniam,
2003). Later in the year 2005, literature has been included as part
oI the English language extended reading program Ior learners in
Primary 4 to 6. The change towards the incorporation oI literature as
a tested component in the teaching oI English Ior the local context has
shown that Malaysia is not only seriously Iollowing the current trend
in language instruction but has also revealed the value oI literature
Ior the teaching oI English as a Second Language Ior our language
PURPOSE OF THE STUDY
When literature was initially incorporated into the school curriculum,
local research enthusiasts began exploring the challenges and
perceptions oI diIIerent parties towards the use oI literature in the
teaching and learning oI English. Meanwhile, numerous seminars and
training sessions have been organised at diIIerent levels nationwide to
create a platIorm Ior the sharing oI eIIective and innovative teaching
ideas Ior the teaching oI the literature component.
It has been more than eight years since literature made its
way into the Malaysian secondary school curriculum. Much has been
expounded about the literature component in the English language
syllabus ever since its introduction. In relation to that, this paper
56 Research In English Language Teaching
attempts to revisit the situation in schools. It is vital to Iollow up to
see how teachers and students are currently adapting to the literature
component aIter its introduction.
THE OBJECTIVE OF THE STUDY
The objectives oI this survey are as Iollows:-
to determine the current perceptions oI teachers and students
towards the literature component in the English language
to fnd out the overall perceptions oI teachers and students
towards the literary texts used Ior the teaching oI literature
in the English language syllabus
to investigate the perceptions oI teachers and students
towards the activities Ior the teaching oI literature
As mentioned earlier, the place Ior literature in language teaching
and learning has repeatedly been perceived diIIerently. DiIIerent
perspectives have exposed the advantages and the disadvantages oI
incorporating literature as a resource Ior teaching languages. However
this would depend on diIIerent Iactors such as the Iunction oI literature
in the language syllabus and how it is used in specifc contexts. By
examining the diIIerent views and through research eIIorts, many
important challenges and new discoveries could be uncovered and
understood. For that matter, this section will provide the general
review oI literature that would help explain the patterns discovered
in the fndings oI this study.
There are a number oI arguments against the use oI literature
in language teaching. McKay (1982) explained that one oI the
arguments is that it has minimal contribution towards the teaching
57 Literature in English Language Teaching: A Revisit in the Malaysian Contex
oI grammar Ior the target language. This is due to the Iact that the
language oI literature, that Irequently explores the use oI unique and
complex language structures, presents language that deviates Irom the
natural or common language use (Marwan, 1997). Apart Irom that,
literature is thought to contribute nothing in helping students achieve
academic and occupational goals (Mckay, 1982).
On the other hand, advocators oI literature Ior language
teaching have exposed various reasons why literature could be used
Ior teaching a language. Among the many reasons claimed to be
benefcial, Collie and Slater (2006) stated that language teachers
should use literary texts in the classroom because they oIIer 'a
bountiIul and extremely varied body oI written material which is
important in the sense that it addresses Iundamental human issues
and which is enduring rather than ephemeral¨ and Ioster personal
involvement in the language learning process. Besides that, Lazar
(2005) claimed that literature is a motivating material, a source that
encourages language acquisition and awareness, an access into other
cultures and an avenue Ior the development oI critical, aesthetic and
creative thinking. These according to him could holistically help
educate a person as a whole. From Fakrul Alam`s (2002) point oI
view, literary texts enhance students` reading skills and provide varied
examples oI vocabulary use. This is supported by Erkaya (2005)
who stated that the use oI short stories in a language classroom, Ior
example, would help expand students` vocabulary and inculcate the
The claims made in support oI the incorporation oI literature
in language teaching and learning have revealed that through
literature, learners would not only gain experience that would enhance
language learning but would also develop other vital skills that
would Iacilitate overall achievement in education such as critical
thinking and reading. To illustrate this, research has discovered that
when readers read literary texts aesthetically, they would be able
to be personally involved in the reading process (Dressel, 2005).
This may not only assist in the development oI personal response
and higher-order thinking oI the texts (Kelly and Farnan, 1989) but
would also encourage the transaction between the reader and the text
58 Research In English Language Teaching
(Rosenblatt, 1978). Moreover, according to McKool (2007), various
studies conducted on reading habits have shown a strong relationship
between the amount oI out-oI school reading a student engages in
and his or her success in reading.
Yang (2007) said that 'it is assumed that although teachers
and students both believe reading is important Ior education, they
hold very diIIerent attitudes as to how reading sessions should be
conducted. Allowing students to select their own reading materials
will enhance students` motivation to read.¨ In other words, iI literary
texts are used to improve the learning oI English through reading,
careIul selection oI them is necessary (Thirumalai, 2002).
Sanacore (1990) suggested that when selecting materials
Ior the classroom, teachers could work closely with library media
specialists who are usually aware oI a wide variety oI materials that
are well-matched with students` interests and needs. The positive
experience in reading literary texts that match students` interests and
needs would build independence and selI-esteem which are important
Ior creating liIelong readers.
This study is part oI a larger study that was carried out in various
schools within the area oI Johor Bahru. For the purpose oI data
collection, two groups oI respondents, which were the 26 English
language teachers who have taught the literature component to
secondary school students and 420 students who have undergone
literature lessons in school, were selected as participants oI the study.
Those students were in Form One to Form Five.
To obtain the needed data, two sets oI questionnaires were
designed and distributed to the respondents. The data obtained Irom
both questionnaires were then descriptively reported in percentage
Iorm where pertinent results that show a match between the two
groups oI participants were presented and discussed. This is done to
observe perceptions among teachers and students and fnd out how
they are adapting aIter a period oI eight years in the syllabus
59 Literature in English Language Teaching: A Revisit in the Malaysian Contex
FINDINGS AND DISCUSSION
Based on the overall fndings obtained, the Iollowing are some
evidence that show a match in the perception oI the two groups oI
respondents namely the teachers and students who participated in
the study. The corresponding results are depicted according to their
general perceptions oI the incorporation oI the literature component
in teaching English, the selection oI literary texts Ior the literature
component and the preIerred activities conducted in the literature
Items Yes No Items Yes No
92.1 7.9 Literature can motivate
students` interest in
learning the English
83.0 17.0 I learn many new words
when I read literary texts
95.0 5.0 I can improve my
profciency in the
provide access to
76.4 23.6 I can learn about other
culture and values
100 0 I like reading literary
texts in English
60 Research In English Language Teaching
Table 1 shows the results oI the study on the perceptions oI
teachers and students towards the use oI literature in English language
teaching. Generally, majority oI the teachers and students welcome
the move oI incorporating literature into the English language
classroom. Both parties believe that literature has a role to play in
motivating students` interests in learning English. They also Ieel that
literature is a useIul learning resource since it could enhance language
profciency and expand vocabulary oI the target language. Besides,
both parties appreciate the Iact that literature can become a window
to other cultures. Literature is also perceived to be able to inculcate
the reading habit and develop critical thinking among students.
95.0 5.0 I like it when the teacher
asks Ior views in the class
Table 1: Perception on the use oI literature in English language teaching
Items Yes No Items Yes No
I like to teach
79.7 20.3 I like to read
I like to teach
37.9 62.1 I like to read classics 24.5 75.5
I like to teach
66.3 33.7 I like to read poetry 39.2 60.8
I like to teach
100 0 I like to read short stories 88.5 11.5
61 Literature in English Language Teaching: A Revisit in the Malaysian Contex
Table 2: Perception towards the literary texts used in literature lessons
Table 2 shows the reality that is happening in the literature
classroom surveyed. It presents the perceptions oI both teachers and
students towards literary texts used in literature lessons. Both teachers
and students like to read contemporary literature and show strong
dislike over the teaching and learning oI classics. In relation to the
choice oI literature used, oI the three types oI literature used, namely
poetry, short stories and novels, it could be observed that short stories
are very much liked by both students and teachers. However, the study
also reveals that poetry is the least popular literary resource among
both teachers and students. In Iact, more students and teachers preIer
novels more compared to poetry. As Ior texts selection, majority oI
the students like to read text based on their own selection while many
teachers have also claimed to use literary texts other than the ones
suggested by the syllabus in teaching literature .
I like to teach
79.7 20.3 I like to read novels 77.7 23.3
I use a variety
oI literary texts
other than the ones
suggested Ior the
76.4 23.6 I like to read literary
texts based on my own
Items Yes No Items Yes No
Reading in class 89.7 10.3 I like the teacher to Iollow
the text closely during the
62 Research In English Language Teaching
Assign reading at
59.7 40.3 I take the initiative to read
literary texts beIore the
93.3 6.7 I learn literature by using
I like to relate
to other types oI
90.9 9.1 I can relate the content
oI literary texts to other
types oI reading materials
that I read
74.4 25.6 I learn many new words
when I read literary texts
Group discussion 97.2 2.8 I like to learn literature
through discussions with
I like to teach
88.8 1.2 I like to learn literature by
I like to use
77.5 22.5 I am interested to learn
Table 3: Perception towards the activities conducted
in the teaching oI literature
Table 3 shows the respondents` perceptions towards the kinds
oI activities that are preIerred Ior literature lessons. In general both
teachers and students have similar positive perceptions towards the
use oI movies and multimedia application in activities targeted Ior the
teaching and learning oI literature. Although both groups oI respondents
show positive perceptions towards activities such as in-class reading,
relating literary texts to other types oI texts, group discussions and
63 Literature in English Language Teaching: A Revisit in the Malaysian Contex
using study guides, the percentage oI teachers who preIerred these
activities are higher than the percentage oI students. On the contrary,
the percentage oI students who perceived vocabulary building activities
are useIul is higher than the percentage oI teachers. Lastly, the results
oI the study also revealed that both teachers and students perceived
assigning reading at home as the least Iavoured activity.
The general fndings oI our study show that although literature has
been perceived to be the driving Iorce that may develop students`
interest in language learning through the habit oI reading, the actual
implementation done in the classroom do not cater Ior the development
oI personal aesthetic response to reading literary texts as inspired by
the aims and objectives oI the syllabus. This is because, 100° oI
the teachers believe that literature can inculcate the reading habit
among students. However, 93.3° oI the teachers are also Iound to
have used study guides or notes emphasising on how exam questions
can be answered. In doing so, much attention has been given to the
content and preparing students Ior examination purposes rather than
to create opportunities Ior students to explore their personal response
through aesthetic reading which may assist students to develop a love
As a result, students will read literary texts assigned to
them but may not choose to extend their reading experience once
the literature lesson is over. However, iI students are allowed to
personally respond to the texts by relating it to their personal lives
and experiences, they may fnd the texts more meaningIul and close
to them. In other words, allowing students to respond to the texts Irom
their point oI view will help them link their own experiences with
what the text has to oIIer. This helps create a special bond between
students and their reading texts, which will eventually lead them to
explore other literary texts resulting in habit Iormation.
64 Research In English Language Teaching
Texts selection is one oI the prime indicators Ior the
development oI reading habit or pleasure which ultimately leads to
the eIIectiveness oI the use oI literature in English language teaching.
We Ieel that the teaching oI literature Ior language learning should
incorporate diIIerent types oI literary texts. This will not only allow
students to gain exposure to diIIerent types oI literary genre but also
cater Ior diIIerent expectation or preIerence oI specifc genres oI
literary texts. However, the study Iound that students and teachers
are a little apprehensive over the use oI classics and poetry as
language learning resources. This may be due to the unique language
conventions used in the texts which are not usually Iound in any
typical English language texts. They may fnd the teaching and
learning oI literature a daunting task. To solve the problems, teachers
should allow room Ior students to select and study literary texts that
suit them (Yang, 2007). A similar view is expressed by Thirumalai
(2002), who argued that careIul selection oI literary texts would assist
in improving the learning oI English through reading.
The study has also discovered that interactive activities are
much preIerred by both teachers and students as opposed to selI-
directed activities such as individual reading. The set oI learners
and teachers surveyed preIer activities that provide them immediate
Ieedback in the literature classroom. For example, group discussion is
very much Iavoured by both the teachers (97°) and students (85°).
Teachers (78°) and students (73°) also preIer activities which make
use oI multimedia application Ior the teaching oI literature. It is also
noted that both teachers and students like the use oI movies as a
literature learning resource. We Ieel that the use oI movies has great
potential in helping students to visualize the text in a more meaningIul
manner. It may be because the sound and visual stimulation produced
in by movies enhance their aesthetic value oI the text.
Lastly, it is interesting to note that the study also uncovered
that the use oI study guides is signifcant among the respondents
(93.3° oI teachers and 65° oI students) surveyed. Similarly, students
do not Iavour reading texts at home as instructed by teachers. These
fndings suggest that there is a match between what the students need
65 Literature in English Language Teaching: A Revisit in the Malaysian Contex
and what the teachers provide them with in the literature lessons. The
use oI study guides ensured that the teaching and learning process
becomes smoother and helps to reach a common goal. Perhaps one
oI the goals is in preparing students Ior examination purposes.
As a conclusion, we fnd that McKool`s (2007) claim is very relevant
to the fndings oI our study which points to the importance oI engaging
students in reading literary texts in a language class. This according
to her would help to Ioster reading habits among learners. Such an
engagement helps in sending students the message that liIetime
literacy is a major instructional activity.
Based on what has been presented, the Iollowing are suggestions in
support oI the eIIort to incorporate the teaching oI literature into the
Special training on allowing students to become personally
involved in the meaning making process oI literary texts
should be conducted among teachers to open opportunities
Ior students to engage in personal response as they read.
Text selection should be given much thought (contemporary
vs. classics OR type oI literary texts) which should ultimately
cater to students` interest iI the aim is to assist language
teaching and learning and to inculcate the habit oI reading
Future researchers may want to uncover the reasons why
interactive lessons are preIerred in the teaching oI literature
66 Research In English Language Teaching
and also to explore avenues into making literature in English
language teaching become more interactive and dynamic
so as to meet the expectations oI the teaching and learning
needs in the local context
Carroli, Piera. (2002). Perceptions of Literature: A Comparison of
Students’ and Educators’ Views. ELT Journal. 37,1, 30-35.
Collie, J. and Slater, S. (2006). Literature in the Language
Classroom. Cambridge: CUP
Delanoy, Werner. (1997). Teacher Mediation and Literature
Learning in the Language Classroom. LCS. 14,
Dressel, J.H. (2005). Personal Response and Social Responsibility:
Responses of Middle School Students to Multicultural
Lliterature. The Reading Teacher.58(8), 750-764.
Erkaya, Rocha Idilea. (2005). Benefts oI Using Short Stories in the
EFL Context. Asian EFL Journal. 8, 13
Fakrul Alam (2002). Using Postcolonial Literature in ELT. The
English Teacher. Institute Ior English Language Education.
Vol. 5 n. 2
Kelly, P. and Farnan, N. (1989). Effects of a Reader Response
Approach on Students’ Ways of Thinking about Text.
Conference Report at the Annual Meeting of the National
Reading ConIerence, 1-14
Lazar, G. (2005). Literature and Language Teaching: AGuide for
Teachers and Trainers. Cambridge: CUP
Liddicoat, A.J. and Crozet, C. (2000). Teaching Languages,
Teaching Cultures. Melbourne: Language Australia
McKay, S. (1982) Literature in the ESL Classroom. TESOL
Quarterly. Vol. 16 n.4
McKool, Sharon S. Factors that inßuence the aecision to reaa. An
67 Literature in English Language Teaching: A Revisit in the Malaysian Contex
investigation of hfth graae stuaents out-og-school reaaing
habits. Reading Improvement, Fall 2007, Vol. 44 Issue 3,
p111-131, 21p; (AN 27338173)
Obeidat, Marwan (1997) Language vs. Litearture. Forum.
Vol. 35 n 1
Premawardhena, N. C. (2006). Integrating Literature into Foreign
Language Teaching: A Sri Lankan Perspective. Novitas-
ROYAL. 1, 2, 92-97.
Sanacore, J. (1990). Encouraging the LiIetime Reading Habit
– ED326835 eric.ed.gov http://eric.ed.gov/ERICDocs/data/
Subramaniam, G. (2003). Literature Programmes in Malaysian
Schools: A Historical Overview. In Ganakumaran
Subramaniam and Malachi Edwin Vethamani (Eds.)
Teaching oI Literature in ESL/EFL Contexts. MELTA. 27-
48. Petaling Jaya: Sasbadi
Thakur, Damodar. (2003). Teaching Language Through
Literature: Problems and Principes (Part 2). Yemen Times,
642, 13. ¦Online}. Available:http://www.yementimes.com/
Thirumalai, M.S. (2002). Use oI Literature in Teaching Language.
Retrived January 5, 2008, Irom http://www.languageindia.
Yang, Anson (June, 2007) Cultivating a Reading Habit: Silent
Reading at School. The Asian EFL Journal Quarterly. 9,
69 The Holistic Approach: Using Drama In The Secondary Esl Classroom
THE HOLISTIC APPROACH:
USING DRAMA IN THE
SECONDARY ESL CLASSROOM
ABDULLAH BIN MOHD NAWI
Drama has long been part of the education curriculum in many parts
of the world, and can in effect be considered a subject in its own right,
complete with its own unique set of objectives and syllabi. In fact,
using drama in education has been a concept that has been employed
since before the time of Ancient Greece. However, the Ancient Greeks,
through the works oI Aristotle, were the frst people to Iormalise the
notion that drama was a representation of real life, and similar to real
life, man is able to learn from it (Heath 1996). In his treatise ‘The
Poetics’, Aristotle outlines six elements of drama, which are:
PLOT – what happens in a play; the order of events, the
story as opposed to the theme; what happens rather than
what it means.
THEME – what the play means as opposed to what happens
(plot); the main idea within the play.
CHARACTER – the personality or the part an actor represents
in a play; a role played by an actor in a play.
DICTION/LANGUAGE/DIALOGUE – the word choices
made by the playwright and the enunciation of the actors
delivering the lines.
MUSIC/RHYTHM – by music Aristotle meant the sound,
rhythm and melody of the speeches.
SPECTACLE – the visual elements of the production
of a play; the scenery, costumes, and special effects in a
70 Research In English Language Teaching
In today`s feld oI teaching, Maley and DuII (1982: 6), long
considered to be the modern IoreIathers oI using drama (specifcally
‘drama techniques’) in teaching the English language, propound the
notion that drama is in fact an integral part for teaching the language,
due to the fact that drama activities “draw upon the natural ability of
each person to imitate, mimic, and express himself through gesture”,
and without which language lessons may appear to be dreary and
de-motivating to the learners. Wessels (1987) Iurther supports using
drama to teach language by stating that drama can help the teacher
to achieve ‘reality’ in several ways. It can overcome the students’
resistance to learning the new language by making the learning of
the new language an enjoyable experience, setting realistic targets
for the students to aim for, fashioning a creative ‘slowing down’ of
real experience, and by linking the language-learning experience with
the student’s own experience of life.
For many years, the mainstream of the English language teacher
training programs (i.e.: Dip.Ed, B.Ed, and M.Ed TESL) in Malaysia
has concentrated on training teachers on elements of teaching that
have been successful in the past, and these include methodology,
materials selection, using the communicative approach and so on.
Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, however, is an example of a teaching
institution that raises the bar by making it mandatory for its B.Sc with
Education (TESL) students minor in Information Technology (IT),
to master certain programs that will enable them to incorporate these
elements in their teaching. Nevertheless, in the course of integrating
the teaching techniques of the past and those of the future, it can be
seen that certain teaching techniques that do not directly conform to
the mainstream of teacher training are given less priority, or even
bypassed altogether. Such a technique would be training future
teachers on using drama in the language classroom, where many
71 The Holistic Approach: Using Drama In The Secondary Esl Classroom
teachers and teacher trainers alike do not see the necessity of engaging
in the ‘frivolity’ of using such a teaching technique that would
distance themselves from the accepted conventions of learning for
examinations. Therefore, it would stand to reason that in most teacher
training programs, teaching using drama is either rarely offered as an
elective to be taken (as in the case of the UTM B.Sc with Education
TESL program) or not offered at all.
As a result, a vast majority of students all over the country
have little or no exposure at all to being taught using drama or drama
techniques in the language classroom. Consequently, when a teacher
tries to use drama, he may face a certain amount of resistance in
the students, especially in schools that have a tradition of academic
achievement in the Malaysian context. Therefore, this may further
depreciate the value of using drama in the language classroom, adding
to the vicious cycle that drama is impractical in the Malaysian context,
and that it may be considered ‘frivolous’ to train future teachers in
the benefts oI using drama in the language classroom, where time
could be utilised to train them in other more benefcial` teaching
To further understand this phenomenon, this study was
designed to gauge the perceptions oI two main groups, the frst being
practicing teachers who were in various stages of completing their
M.Ed TESL in UTM, and the second being a group of teachers who
were trained in using drama and drama techniques while in a teacher
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
With the implementation of this study, it is hoped that Malaysian
teacher trainers can be made more aware oI the benefts oI using drama
in the language classroom, which would in turn affect the content of
what they teach to their students – the future teachers. With enough
teachers trained in drama and drama techniques, the way should be
72 Research In English Language Teaching
paved for a cultural change in Malaysian students, where the focus
of learning does not just have to be in the form of students sitting
down at their desks and waiting for the teacher to bestow knowledge
to them. These students can be convinced that learning can also take
place when they move their bodies about, utilise their imagination,
and have a good time in the language classroom.
DEFINITION OF THE HOLISTIC APPROACH IN USING
In context of the study, the term ‘drama’ would apparently have to
be defned in the teaching-learning context, and moreover it has to
be taken into consideration that drama as an instrument of teaching
encompasses many different aspects, and that a focal point has to
be developed in order to fully utilise the study at hand. However, in
limiting the scope of the area of study we may be blinding ourselves
to any potential benefts oI the overlooked aspects. For example, let
us examine the differences between two aspects of drama and they
are ‘stage drama’ and ‘drama techniques’.
Stage drama or theatre can be seen as the more traditional
defnition oI drama; here the script is studied and acted out, usually in
front of an audience. The production is usually processed by a team of
players (actors), stagehands, costume makers, technicians and so on.
In the school context, because of the close ties to drama, literature and
language, educational drama usually works hand in hand with English,
and in some cases, is a part of the teaching of English. For example
the works of Shakespeare are studied and acted time and time again as
part of the literature curriculum. Students are exposed to the nuances
Iound in the language. Parry (1972) advocates the opinion that drama
is such an integral part of English that without it, English cannot be
taught as effectively as it should be. This is because drama embodies
the very essence of language, combining speech with movements of
the whole body as part of making a memorable learning experience.
Moreover, because stage drama calls upon the preparation of an end
73 The Holistic Approach: Using Drama In The Secondary Esl Classroom
product, the students fnd themselves compelled to Ioster a spirit
of cooperation with one another, each playing a part in producing
the fnal polished perIormance. It is this Iorm oI drama which most
teachers and students in the Malaysian context are familiar with.
Drama techniques, on the other hand, are defned by Maley
and DuII (1982: 6) as activities that draw upon the natural ability oI
every person to imitate, mimic, and express him or herself through
gesture’. Because of the rather limited scope of the meaning, the
defnition is to be augmented slightly by adding that even though
gesture is important, it is only a part of the whole process, and that
drama activities encompass imitating, mimicking and expressing
through any means necessary, including gesture and verbalisation. As
a result numerous techniques become available, among them the use
of role-play, dance-drama, mime and so on. The important point to
note is that the activities are not minor performances in preparation
for a major performance in a stage production, but rather they are
isolated activities with the intent of focusing on the given task at
hand. Inherently, this is the form of drama in education in which the
majority of Malaysian teachers are not trained to implement.
No matter how drama in education is seen as a stage drama
or the employment of drama techniques, it is still part of the same
Ioundation and can be 'seen as one continuum¨ (Dougill 1987: 2).
For that reason, in this study both these terms shall be looked at as
under the generic term ‘drama’, and the techniques used as ‘drama
techniques’. The coined term ‘holistic approach’ can be regarded as
an umbrella term encompassing this single continuum of ‘drama’ and
utilising its benefts in the language classroom in a holistic manner,
which encapsulates language learning benefts Ior personal selI-
There are two parts in the study, both surveys in the form of interview
Ior the frst group, and questionnaire via e-mail Ior the second group.
74 Research In English Language Teaching
These surveys were initially taken as data for follow-up research on
drama, and were in fact initially independent from each other. The
frst survey was carried out in 2005, and the second survey was carried
out in 2007. The purpose oI there being two surveys was to show the
differences between two target groups and their perceptions towards
using drama in the Malaysian ESL Classroom (MESLC).
This 2005 survey was carried out via interviews to a group oI 32
practicing teachers who were in various stages of completing their
M.Ed TESL in UTM. These teachers were of no particular grouping,
and came from a variety of schools in different Socio-economic (SES)
settings Irom all over Johor state. Their ages varied Irom 24-47 years
old, hypothetically ensuring a demographical mixture of attitudes,
training, and perceptions. Three questions were asked in the interview,
and they are as stated below:
Question 1: Are you aware of drama and drama techniques
as a teaching tool?
Question 2: Have you been trained in any way to use drama
or drama techniques in your teaching?
Question 3: Have you used any form of drama in your
The fndings can be seen in the tables below:
Table 1: Are you aware of drama and
drama techniques as a teaching tool?
75 The Holistic Approach: Using Drama In The Secondary Esl Classroom
DISCUSSION ON SURVEY A
From these three questions, it can be clearly seen that the frst group
of practicing teachers were not trained in the use of drama/drama
techniques, and a vast majority of them did not use it in their teaching.
What can be gleaned from this is that the teachers were not fully aware
oI the benefts oI using drama in the language classroom, or were
aware to a certain degree but did not carry out drama activities due
to lack of training, thus resulting in the fear of uncertainty or even
losing control of a class. This is most probably because the majority
of these teachers were products of the ‘traditional’ training in teacher
training institutes, whereby they are given a good all-round education
on being teachers. However, because of the current system that has
been in place for a good number of years, they do not receive the
necessary exposure to drama, or even the creative arts for that matter.
Again, it has to be stressed that this is through no fault of the teachers,
but is a result of a system that needs to be enhanced to cater for more
enjoyment and motivation in the teaching and learning process.
Table 2: Have you been trained in any way
to use drama or drama techniques
in your teaching?
Table 3: Have you used any form of drama
in your teaching?
76 Research In English Language Teaching
In 2007, a questionnaire was sent out via e-mail to a whole batch
of students who had graduated from teacher training institutes, and
were fully trained in using creative drama in language teaching. Of
the questionnaires sent, a total oI 50 were returned. These teachers
came from all over the country, including the interiors of Sabah and
Sarawak, and some were also posted in remote places. However, the
majority of the returned responses came from the teachers posted
in developed areas with access to telephones and computers. The
questionnaire was distributed via e-mail, obtained from an internet
The questions from the questionnaire were as follows:
Question 1: As school students, did your teachers ever carry
out language activities that required the use of drama/drama
Question 2: As practising teachers trained in using drama, do
you use drama/drama techniques in your teaching?
Question 3: What are the benefts you see in your students
when you use drama/drama techniques?
The fndings can be seen in the tables below:
Table 4: As school students, did your teachers
ever carry out language activities that required
the use of drama/drama techniques?
77 The Holistic Approach: Using Drama In The Secondary Esl Classroom
DISCUSSION ON SURVEY B
The frst table shows that even as students, only a minority oI the
students had undergone any experience in learning English under a
teacher who used drama as a medium of instruction, and this would
tally with the earlier fnding in Survey A (though Survey A showed
an even smaller bracket for teachers who used drama). However, it
can be visibly noted that a vast majority of the teachers in Survey
B actually practiced what they were trained to do, which in terms
oI drama in education would mean a signifcant improvement in the
perceptions and practices of these teachers.
Table 6 shows that the major benefts that could be seen in
students, the highest ranking being that enjoyment factor. In line
with the AIIective Filter principle as put Iorward by Krashen (1985),
the higher the enjoyment, the lower the aIIective flter; the lower
the aIIective flter, the higher the acquisition. Moreover, the second
biggest beneft that the teachers noted in their students was their level
Table 5: As practising teachers trained in using drama,
do you use drama/drama techniques in your teaching?
Table 6: What are the benefts you see in your students
when you use drama/drama techniques?
Confdence in communicating 92%
Enjoyed lessons 96%
More expressive 88°
Better learning 64%
78 Research In English Language Teaching
oI confdence in communicating, as is required by the principles oI
Communicative Language Teaching that is theoretically practiced
in Malaysian schools. Furthermore, an additional bonus was that
many of the students became more expressive in the classes, which
is always a welcome change from unresponsive students who look
down every time a question is asked.
Nevertheless, another fnding that was positive but not up to
the expected mark is better learning experience. Although 64% is
moderately good, the expected percentage was initially projected to be
closer to the 80° -90° range, where most oI the benefts are placed.
Perhaps a better way to increase this number would be providing better
training and more diversity in drama techniques used in the class.
In a nutshell, the benefits of applying the holistic approach to
drama can be clearly seen, where the most of the students enjoyed
a signifcant increase in their motivation, communication, and oI
course in their learning. However, a vast majority of teachers are
still unaware oI these benefts, and more importantly, need training in
using the holistic approach in using drama in the language classroom.
Moreover, even though drama has been applied by teachers in the
past, it has yet to become a norm in the MESLC.
Introduce drama as a subject in all teacher training colleges/
universities that offer TESL. The subject should include
exposure to both stage drama and drama techniques.
Carry out short courses that can be offered by individuals,
colleges/universities, or government agencies.
For trained teachers to apply and spread their knowledge via
79 The Holistic Approach: Using Drama In The Secondary Esl Classroom
Dougill, J.(1987). Drama Activities for Language Learning.
Heath, M. (1996) Poetics – By Aristotle. London: Penguin Classics
Krashen, S. D. (1985) The Input Hypothesis: Issues and
Implications. New York: Longman
Maley, A and DuII, A, (1982) (2nd Edition). Drama Techniques in
Language Learning. Cambridge: Cambridge University
Parry, C. (1972). English through Drama. Cambridge: Cambridge
Wessels, C. (1987). Drama (Resource Books for Teachers). Oxford:
Oxford University Press
81 The Role Of Content Knowledge In The Use Of Reading Strategies
THE ROLE OF CONTENT
KNOWLEDGE IN THE USE OF
FAIZAH MOHAMAD NOR
Many studies have been carried out to determine the causes of
diIfculty in comprehending texts. Among those Irequently cited
as Iactors that either inhibit or enhance text comprehension are the
reader`s content knowledge, the medium oI language used to convey
the content, the reader`s L1 reading ability and the reader`s level oI
When reading subject-specifc texts which are heavily-laden
with Iacts, content knowledge is undoubtedly one oI the biggest
Iactors that determine a reader`s success in reading comprehension.
Readers would Iace great diIfculty in comprehending such texts
iI they do not possess a suIfcient level oI content knowledge. The
level oI content knowledge one possesses infuences the quality oI
reading as it activates the quality oI questions raised by the reader
(Scardamalia and Bereiter, 1991).
Apart Irom generating higher-quality selI-generated questions,
does high content knowledge also activate the use oI more eIIective
reading strategies among readers? This paper thus aims to study the
role oI content knowledge in the reading oI subject-specifc texts
and to determine iI good content knowledge leads to more eIIective
text comprehension. The study also seeks to investigate the role oI a
reader`s level oI content knowledge in determining the Irequency and
types oI reading strategies that are employed by the readers.
82 Research In English Language Teaching
Thus, the researcher sought to fnd answers to the Iollowing
What types oI reading strategies do readers employ when
reading subject-specifc texts?
Do readers with good and poor content knowledge diIIer in
the quantity oI reading strategies they use?
Do readers with good and poor content knowledge diIIer in
the types oI reading strategies they use?
2.0 A REVIEWOF THE LITERATURE
2.1 The Role of Content Knowledge in Reading
The role oI content knowledge in reading comprehension cannot be
denied as the role oI schema has been proven to be critical in top-
down reading models. Schema theory research has provided evidence
Ior the importance oI background knowledge in reading (Carrell
and Eisterhold, 1988). While there have been reading theorists (e.g.
Phelps, 1989) who suggest that a reader`s schema does not play as
important a role as other Iactors, in a reader`s reading comprehension,
other researchers attest to its signifcance in reading success.
BransIord and Johnson (1973, in Kinzer and Leu, 1997)
discovered that a reader`s content knowledge plays an especially
important role when comprehending texts that are complex, ambiguous
and texts which are highly dense with inIormation (Tyler and Voss,
1982, in Kinzer and Leu, 1997). Prior knowledge oI the content leads
to a greater Irequency and higher quality oI selI-generated questions
(Scardamalia and Bereiter, 1991). This indicates that prior knowledge
leads to a more enhanced reading process.
Foltz (1996), too, views content knowledge as an important
variable in comprehension. According to Foltz whose view supports
the interactive theory oI reading, text processing occurs at many
83 The Role Of Content Knowledge In The Use Of Reading Strategies
levels, ranging Irom recognizing words and sentence structure to
higher-level processes such as extracting the summary oI the text. In
his view, all these processes need to be orchestrated simultaneously
Ior the text to be processed eIIectively, otherwise causing Iailure in
Schank (in Costanzo, 1994) argues that content knowledge
is a signifcant contributor to reading comprehension and is more
important than any other Iactor, such as the language used to deliver
the content. Several studies which have confrmed the positive
infuence oI content knowledge on reading comprehension include
that carried out by McGivney-Burrell (1999). In his study which
compared readers with diIIerent levels oI content knowledge in
Mathematics, McGivney-Burrell concluded that expert readers who
were PhD holders with good content knowledge exhibited eIfcient
meta-cognitive skills while the novices who were college Math
majors, with lower levels oI content knowledge, did not. This shows
that meta-cognitive skills are dependent on one`s level oI content
Cote (1998) too, confrmed the importance oI a learner`s
content knowledge when reading she discovered that prior content
knowledge infuenced the outcome scores oI the reading task given
to the subjects oI her study.
2.2 Reading Strategies
Strategies, as defned by Block (1986), are moves consciously made
by second language learners intended to be useIul in either learning
or using the second language. Reading strategies are defned as the
strategies that are taken when readers conceive a task, the textual cues
utilized, the moves taken when readers make sense oI a text and when
they do not understand what they are reading (Block, 1986).
Block Iurther categorizes reading strategies into two: general
strategies and local strategies. General strategies are used to monitor
one`s comprehension such as anticipate content, recognize text
structure, integrate inIormation, question inIormation in the text,
84 Research In English Language Teaching
interpret the text, use general knowledge and associations, comment
on behaviour or process, monitor comprehension, correct behaviour
and react to the text. Local strategies, on the other hand, comprise
strategies that help readers deal with the diIfculties arising Irom
the language oI the text. The local strategies identifed by Block in
her study are paraphrased, reread, question meaning oI a clause or
sentence, question meaning oI a clause or sentence, question meaning
oI a word and solve vocabulary problem.
2.3 Content Knowledge: Its Inñuence on the Use of Reading
Dickerson (1998), in her investigation on the eIIects oI subject
matter knowledge, Iound that science and non-science majors were
distinguishable in the Irequency and type oI reading strategies
employed when reading. This shows that the lack oI content
knowledge among the non-science majors aIIected their use oI reading
strategies and is thus Iurther evidence oI the infuence oI the reader`s
content knowledge on one aspect oI the reading process, i.e. the use
oI reading strategies.
In a study comparing expert and novice readers who diIIered in
their level oI content knowledge, the expert readers who were graduate
students were reported to have employed the use oI more eIIective
and a greater Irequency oI reading strategies than the novice readers
who were undergraduate students (Pinkerd, 1995). This displays the
Iact that content knowledge infuences the use oI reading strategies
as graduate students who possess better knowledge structures than
undergraduate students who were still pursuing their understanding
oI the discourse knowledge, displayed the use oI appropriate reading
Kinzer and Leu (1997) again confrmed the infuence oI the
amount oI prior knowledge on reading. In their study, readers with
a high level oI prior content knowledge were Iound to have out-
perIormed those with low prior content knowledge.
85 The Role Of Content Knowledge In The Use Of Reading Strategies
As a conclusion, a reader`s level oI content knowledge is a
determinant oI his reading success as well as the Irequency and type
oI reading strategies utilized.
3.0 RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
This study involved 18 subjects who were all learners oI an engineering
Iaculty at a higher learning institution. The subjects were selected
using the purposive sampling technique. These learners were all taking
the Mekanik Pepejal 2 course, a Mechanical Engineering subject,
during the time this study was carried out. The researcher, with the
help oI a content specialist, identifed respondents oI the Mechanical
Engineering Faculty who were registered Ior the Mekanik Pepejal 2
course in that particular semester. This was to ensure that all subjects
had taken the pre-requisite course, which is the Mekanik Pepejal
1 course. This meant that all subjects had the content knowledge
required to process the text.
However, the content knowledge possessed by the learners
varied, and their level oI content knowledge was determined by their
scores obtained for the Mekanik Pepejal 1 course. The learners were
then categorized into learners with high content knowledge and low
content knowledge depending on the results obtained Ior this Mekanik
Pepejal 1 course.
The text used was on Strain Gages`, a topic which is very
important to learners oI Mechanical Engineering (Faizah, 2002). The
research instruments included the use oI the think-aloud protocol,
observation and interviews. The 18 subjects were required to read
the text individually and to think-aloud while reading the text. The
think-aloud protocols were later transcribed, segmented, coded and
categorized as reading strategies.
The data obtained Irom the think-aloud protocols were
validated against those gauged Irom observations and interviews
with the subjects. These data were analyzed qualitatively as well as
86 Research In English Language Teaching
quantitatively to determine iI a reader`s content knowledge has any
signifcant infuence on the use oI reading strategies.
4.0 FINDINGS AND ANALYSES
This section presents the fndings and analyses oI the research
questions raised earlier. The fndings are organised into the types oI
reading strategies the readers used, the Irequency oI reading strategies
used by the two categories oI readers: those with good and poor
content knowledge, and fnally, the diIIerences in reading strategies
Irequently employed by the two categories oI readers.
4.1 Types of General Strategies and Local Strategies
The fndings revealed that the readers who participated in this study
employed a total oI 27 diIIerent General Strategies and 11 Local
Strategies. As classifed by Block, General Strategies are those used
to monitor one`s comprehension while Local Strategies are those
employed to help readers deal with the diIfculties arising Irom the
language oI the text.
The General Strategies observed among these readers are
Anticipate content (G1), Integrate inIormation (G2), Question
inIormation in text (G3), Interpret the text (G4), Use content
knowledge and association (G5), Monitor comprehension (G6),
Correct behaviour (G7), React intellectually to text (G8), Keep ideas
in your head while reading (G9), IdentiIy organization oI ideas (G10),
IdentiIy a defnition (G11), Learn something new (G12), Try to push
ahead when blocked by comprehension diIfculty (G13), Try to
specifcally remember parts oI text (G14), Reread (G15), ReIormulate
parts oI text (G16), Aim frst Ior general understanding (G17), Skip
the diIfculty in question (G18), Study illustration (G19), ClariIy
ideas (G20), Summarize key inIormation (G21), Find motivation
Ior reading (G22), Confrm predictions (G23), Skim (G24), SelI-
87 The Role Of Content Knowledge In The Use Of Reading Strategies
talk (G25), Overview text (G26) and Relate reading to proIessional
The eleven Local Strategies identifed are Paraphrase (L1),
Question meaning oI clause/sentence (L2), Question meaning oI word
(L3), Solve vocabulary problem (L4), Find it necessary to know the
pronunciation oI word to understand text (L5), Feel it was necessary
to understand every word (L6), Analyze the word in itselI (L7),
Compare word with word in L1 (L8), Translate (L9), Pronounce the
word/expression (L10) and Want to use a dictionary (L11).
This shows that the readers employed a wide variety oI reading
strategies in their eIIort to make meaning oI the text. And when they
could not make sense oI some parts oI the text due to the language
diIfculty, they also compensated Ior their ineIfciency by adopting
eleven diIIerent local strategies.
4.2 Frequency of Reading Strategies Used by Readers with Good
Content Knowledge and Poor Content Knowledge.
Readers with good content knowledge (RGC) used a total number
oI 536 reading strategies, i.e. 462 General Strategies and 74 Local
strategies. On the other hand, readers with poor content knowledge
(RPC) used a total number oI 468 reading strategies which consist
oI 383 general strategies and 85 Local Strategies.
This shows that readers with good content knowledge
Frequency oI Reading Strategies RGC RPC
Reading Strategies 536 468
General Strategies 462 383
Local Strategies 74 85
Table 1: Frequency oI Strategies used
by RGC and RPC
88 Research In English Language Teaching
(RGC) used a higher number oI reading strategies than readers with
poor content knowledge (RPC). The RGC also employed a higher
Irequency oI general strategies compared to the readers with poor
content knowledge (RPC). However, the use oI local strategies is
higher among the RPC than the RGC.
This indicates that due to their higher level oI content
knowledge, the RGC are able to activate their content schema to
interact with the text they were reading. Because oI their well-Iormed
content schema, the RGC were able to employ a greater variety oI
general strategies such as anticipate content, integrate inIormation,
question inIormation in the text and monitor their comprehension.
The RPC, on the other hand, because oI their lack oI content
knowledge, displayed Iewer general strategies compared to the RGC.
Their lack oI content knowledge hindered them Irom interacting
actively with the text. These readers relied more on their knowledge
oI the language to compensate Ior their lack oI content knowledge.
Thus, the RPC displayed a higher count oI Local Strategies as a
result oI having adopted more strategies to deal with the linguistic
units oI the text.
4.3 A Comparison of the Reading Strategies Most Frequently
Used by Readers with Good Content Knowledge (RGC) and Poor
Content Knowledge (RPC).
The fndings revealed that readers with good content knowledge
and poor content knowledge used diIIerent reading strategies, as are
displayed in the Iollowing table:
RS used by RGC Freq RS used by RPC Freq
105 IdentiIy organisation oI ideas
89 The Role Of Content Knowledge In The Use Of Reading Strategies
The table above shows that readers with good content
knowledge (RGC) used reading strategies which were diIIerent Irom
those employed by readers with poor content knowledge (RPC). There
is however, only one similarity between the reading strategies used
by these two groups oI readers. What is similar is that the reading
strategy most Irequently employed by both groups, regardless oI their
level oI content knowledge, is identiIying organisation oI ideas.
Table 2: A Comparison oI the Ten Most Frequent Reading Strategies
Employed by Readers with Good Content Knowledge
and Poor Content Knowledge
63 Translate (L9) 61
3 Reread (G15) 36 ReIormulate parts oI text
4 Interpret the text
28 Integrate inIormation (G2) 25
5 - Study illustration (G19) 21
27 Reread (G15) 20
7 Use content
26 Monitor comprehension
8 Study illustration
21 Interpret the text (G4) 18
9 Question meaning
oI word (L3)
17 Try to specially remember
parts oI text (G14)
10 Overview text
15 Summarise key information
90 Research In English Language Teaching
Other than that, the two groups oI readers diIIered in their
choice oI reading strategies. The RGC Iound the Iollowing strategies
useIul: Monitor comprehension, Reread, Interpret text / SelI-talk,
Integrate, Use content knowledge, Study illustration, Question
meaning oI word and Overview text while the RPC Iocused on the
Iollowing reading strategies: Translate, ReIormulate, Integrate, Study
illustration, Reread, Monitor comprehension, Interpret, Remember
The strategies which were Irequently used by RGC but
not by RPC are SelI-talk, Use content knowledge and association,
Question meaning oI word and Overview. On the other hand, the
strategies which were Irequently used by RPC but not by RGC are
Translate, ReIormulate, Remember parts oI text and Summarise
inIormation. This looks as though the RGC made use oI higher-level
reading strategies whereas the RPC employed lower-level reading
strategies. Strategies like remembering and summarising are at the
lower hierarchy oI cognitive skills compared to questioning strategies
which indicate a more active participation in the reading task.
Nine oI the reading strategies most Irequently used by RGC
are general strategies, while the other is a local strategy. The same
observation is gauged on the RPC, indicating that these readers
prioritized the process oI monitoring their comprehension and
maintaining a steady in-fux oI inIormation rather than Iocusing on
the diIfculties arising Irom the language oI the text.
However, both groups diIIered in their use oI local strategy.
The RGC employed the strategy Question meaning oI word` but the
RPC were heavily relying on the local strategy oI translating. The RPC
appeared capable oI merely translating the phrases and sentences in
the text which are written in English into Bahasa Malaysia. The RGC
were at least asking themselves the meaning oI specifc terms in the
given context. This again shows that the RGC employed higher-level
reading strategies compared to the RPC.
91 The Role Of Content Knowledge In The Use Of Reading Strategies
This study concludes that content knowledge does have an infuence
on the types and Irequency oI reading strategies which a reader
employs. As described earlier, readers with good content knowledge
used a higher Irequency oI reading strategies, more higher-level
reading strategies, more general strategies but Iewer local strategies
compared to readers with poor content knowledge. Apart Irom that,
this study also concludes that readers utilised more general strategies
compared to local strategies, when interacting with the text.
Anderson-Inman, L. and Horney, M.A. (1998). 'TransIorming
texts.¨ In Reinking, D., McKenna, M.C. Labbo, L.D.,
KieIIer, R.D. (Eds), :Handbook oI literacy and technology.
TransIormations in a post-typographic world¨. NJ¨ Lawrence
Erlbaum Associates, Inc.
Block, E. (1986). 'The comprehension strategies oI second
language readers.¨ TESOL Quarterly. 20,3, pp 463-494.
Carrell, P. and Eisterhold, J. (1988). 'Schema theory and ESL
reading pedagogy¨. In P.Carrell, J.Devine and D.Eskey
(Eds), 'Interactive approaches to second language reading¨.
pp 73-92. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Costanzo, W. (1994). 'Reading, writing and thinking in an age oI
electronic literacy¨. In SelIe, C. and Hilligoss, S. (Eds.),
'Literacy and computers. The complications oI teaching and
learning with technology.¨ New York: The Modern Language
Association oI America.
Cote, N. (1998). 'Learning Irom inIormational text: Understanding
students` processing and construction oI representations¨:
An overview (Abstract). Retrieved March 9, 2001 Irom
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Devine, J. (1988). 'A case study oI two readers: models oI reading
and reading perIormance¨. In Carrell, P., Devine, J. and
Eskey, D. (Eds.), 'Interactive approaches to second language
reading¨. U.S.A.: Cambridge University Press.
Dickerson, T.G. (1998). 'Individual interest and subject matter
knowledge: Variables aIIecting second language strategy
use in reading a Science article¨. An overview (Abstract).
Retrieved December 17, 1999 Irom http://wwwlib.umi.com/
Faizah Mohamad Nor (2002). 'Reading strategies utilized by
readers in the Mechanical Engineering discipline when
reading in the hypertext environment¨. Unpublished thesis.
Universiti Teknologi Malaysia.
Foltz, P.W. (1996). 'Comprehension, coherence and strategies in
hypertext and linear text.¨ In Rouet, J.F., Levonen, J.J.,
Dillon, A.P. and Spiro, R.J. (Eds.), 'Hypertext and cognition.¨
Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Kinzer, C. and Leu, D.J. (1997). 'The challenge oI change:
Exploring literacy and learning in electronic environments¨.
Language Arts. 74, February. pp 126-136.
McGivney-Burrell, J. (1999). The nature oI control in the problem-
solving process A study oI Ph.D. mathematicians: An
overview (Abstract). Retrieved March 9, 2001 Irom http://
Phelps, S.W.(1989). 'IdentiIying non-verbal problem-solving
strategies through the use oI think-aloud protocols: An
overview (Abstract). Retrieved December 17, 1999 Irom
Pinkerd, T. (1995). 'Oral and silent reading strategies and
comprehension processes using expository and narrative
texts: Case studies oI six Thai native speakers.¨ An overview
(Abstract). Retrieved August 14, 2000 Irom http://wwwlib.
93 The Role Of Content Knowledge In The Use Of Reading Strategies
Ulijn. J. and Salager-Meyer, F. (1998). 'The proIessional reader
and the text: Insights Irom L2 research.¨ Journal of Research
in Reading. 21, 2. pp 79-95.
reading strategies, engineering text, content knowledge, text
comprehension, think-aloud protocol
95 The Relationship Between Reading Comprehension And Strategies Of Readers:
A Case Study Of Utm Students
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN
AND STRATEGIES OF READERS:
A CASE STUDY OF UTM STUDENTS
Examining the dynamic process of reading is not an easy task, as
reading is most of the time a private process. Researchers have
attempted to examine the reading processes through qualitative
studies employing techniques such as miscue analysis, introspection,
retrospection, think-aloud protocol and verbal recall. These techniques
have offered valuable contributions to the investigation of the reading
Studies relating reading strategies to reading comprehension
are quite limited. In the light of this issue, this researcher focuses on the
relationship between a student’s reading strategies and comprehension
of texts. In exploring the psycholinguistic processes involved, a
qualitative approach is used to analyse the data. This study seeks to
fnd answers to this research question: Is there a relationship between
individual student’s reading strategies and reading comprehension?
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN READING
COMPREHENSION AND READING STRATEGIES
A limited number of studies have investigated the relationship between
reading strategies and reading comprehension. Many past studies tend
96 Research In English Language Teaching
to focus on the effect of one type of strategy on reading comprehension
rather than on the relationship between general strategies used and
comprehension. For instance, Close (1993) investigated the effect of
inferring the meaning of unknown words on reading comprehension.
Amer (1994) studied the effect of knowledge-map and underlining
strategies on reading comprehension. A number of studies investigated
the effect of making inferences strategy (Kembo, 1997; Chikalanga,
1992, Horiba, 1996) and metacognitive strategies (Li and Munby;
1996, Auerbach and Paxton, 1997) on reading comprehension.
Nevertheless, these studies did not really include an investigation
on the relationship between the overall use of reading strategies and
Pritchard’s (1990) study, for instance, attempts to investigate
the differences in the use of strategies and the level of comprehension
between L1 (American) and L2 (Palauan) readers. A difference was
observed between American and Palauan subjects’ use of strategies.
For instance, the subjects had the tendency to use their cultural
background knowledge in comprehending the texts. The focus of the
study, however, was not on the relationship between reading strategies
and reading comprehension. He notes that
A great deal remains unexplained regarding the relationship
between the strategies readers use and the comprehension
they achieve. Preliminary results from this study suggest that
differences in comprehension may be related to differences
in the strategies readers employ. However, future research
needs to explore this issue more thoroughly. (Pritchard, 1990:
A similar situation is observed in a study conducted by Amer
(1994) who investigated the effect of two reading strategies namely
knowledge-map and underlining on the reading comprehension of
scientifc texts using open-ended questions and summary tasks.
Results suggest that there is no significant difference between
knowledge mapping and underlining strategies on open-ended
97 The Relationship Between Reading Comprehension And Strategies Of Readers:
A Case Study Of Utm Students
questions. Both strategies were equally effective in helping students
answer explicit and implicit questions. Although this study specifcally
investigated the causal relationship between these strategies and
reading comprehension, it did not investigate the correlation between
the use of these strategies and the level of comprehension achieved by
the subjects. Therefore, whether or not there is a relationship between
these strategies and reading comprehension remains unanswered.
Other studies by Kobeil (1999), Hassan (1999) and Zainal
(2003) suggest that the relationship between comprehension and
strategies is not signifcant. These fndings indicate that the number
oI strategies and the ideas recalled are not related. Kobeil`s fndings
imply that reading strategies and reading comprehension are two
separate factors that are not necessarily related. Hassan (1999)
provides further evidence that reading comprehension and reading
strategies may not be associated. Although Hassan contends that
there are some tendencies for positive correlations between reading
strategies and comprehension when subjects read texts in their L1
and L2, the results indicate very weak relationships between reading
strategies and comprehension. These fndings seem to support some
oI Kobeil`s fndings.
A study conducted by Taillefer and Pugh (1998) shows counter
evidence to the studies by Kobeil (1991) and Hassan (1999). Taillefer
and Pugh (1998) investigated the correlation between the reading
strategies and reading comprehension among French social science
students. In terms of the correlations between reading strategies and
comprehension in both L1 and L2, overall results suggest a strong
association for L2 but less so for L1. These results contradict Kobeil’s
and Hassan`s fndings.
In sum, many empirical studies have attempted to investigate
the relationship between strategy use and comprehension. These
studies have also tended to test the effect of one or two types of
strategies on the subjects’ reading comprehension. Kobeil (1999),
Hassan (1999) and Taillefer and Pugh (1998) are among the few
who investigated the correlation between reading strategies and
reading comprehension of L2 readers. The overall results from these
98 Research In English Language Teaching
three studies are inconsistent. While Hassan’s (1999) and Kobeil’s
(1999) results show a lack of correlation between strategies and
comprehension, Taillefer and Pugh’s (1998) results show a strong
correlation. As the issue of the level of association between reading
comprehension and strategies is still open to question, we make this
a focus of investigation in our own study.
This study, conducted in UTM, is part of a larger study. For the
purpose of this paper, the data used was elicited from four subjects
through think-aloud and verbal recall techniques. These subjects were
Irom two profciency levels: high (Hanz and Hani) and intermediate
(Ilyas and Irwan). Subjects were required to read Iour texts: Text 1
All-Water Systems, Text 2-Transformational Leadership Behaviour,
Text 3-Air-conditioning and Text 4-Conceptions of the Manager.
The results were described through case study approach which
provides a fne-grained examination oI the data. The objectives oI
conducting these case studies were to examine in detail the reading
processes of the subjects in terms of the strategies used (through the
think-aloud technique) and the level of comprehension (through the
verbal recall technique). This researcher took a qualitative approach
to the analysis of these individual cases by providing excerpts of
the subjects` protocols and highlighting the specifc Ieatures oI the
processing behaviour of these subjects.
The subjects’ think-aloud and recall protocols were taped
and transcribed verbatim. From the think-aloud data, a checklist of
strategies was drawn up and became the coding scheme. In analysing
the data, the protocols were matched with the original texts to ascertain
the strategies used by the students. Then, to measure the students’ level
of comprehension this researcher adapted and employed Johns and
Mayes` (1990) categorization scheme to record the idea units produced
by the students. According to Kroll (1977), idea units are propositions
99 The Relationship Between Reading Comprehension And Strategies Of Readers:
A Case Study Of Utm Students
which refect the choices made by an encoder to create some kind
of relationship between ideas and the grammatical surface form. In
this study the idea units were categorized into meaning preserving
and meaning transforming idea units. Meaning preserving idea units
refer to the correct recall made while meaning transforming refers to
distortions made by the reader.
This study attempts to answer the following research
Is there a relationship between the subjects’ reading strategies
and reading comprehension?
In this study, this researcher first examines the reading
processes of individual students. Then, a comparison is made between
high and intermediate students.
RQ1. Is there a relationship between Hanz`s reading strategies and
Hanz was a second year male student majoring in mechanical
engineering. Based on the English Language Profciency Test result,
his language profciency was advanced.
There seemed to be an association between Hanz`s reading
strategies and reading comprehension - the greater the number of
strategies employed by Hanz, the greater the number oI idea units
produced. A closer examination of the protocol suggests some
tendencies Ior Hanz`s think-aloud and verbal recall protocols to be
related, although not consistently. For instance, when Hanz`s think-
aloud pointed to the understanding of a text, he also produced Meaning
Preserving idea units on the same content matter. One such example
can be seen in Excerpt 1 below.
100 Research In English Language Teaching
Text Think-aloud Verbal recall
#7 The development
of low toxicity
known as Freons
and chlorine or
bromine) in the
early 1930s was an
In 1930s they created
aa… the invention of
Freons which is a carbon
fuorine and chlorine
or bromine which is
also known as CFC and
if I’m not mistaken it
is also harmful to our
creates a hole in our
ozone layers that can
harm our health.
And a Freon or a carbon
compound oI fuorine
or chlorine and chlorine
which is also known
as CFC and non-toxic
compound was devised
in 19… about 1930.
Now it’s considered
as a dangerous gas.
And this aa…and it is
an important step in
In the example above, Hanz demonstrated background knowledge
about Freons, the carbon compound used in an air-conditioning system,
through the think-aloud in which he mentioned the scientifc acronym
of the carbon compound as CFC. He also included information
concerning the danger of CFC to our environment and health. The
same kind of information was also revealed in his verbal recall when
he mentioned that CFC, a non-toxic gas at the time it was devised, is
considered a dangerous gas now. In other words, content in Hanz`s
think-aloud is also found in his verbal recall. When he preserved the
meaning of the text in his think-aloud, there was also the tendency to
preserve the meaning of the text in his verbal recall. However, when
he transformed the meaning of the text in his think-aloud, he also
tended to do the same in his verbal recall.
On the other hand, when Hanz misunderstood the text, there is
the tendency that he would produce Meaning Transforming idea units
for the same content matter in his verbal recall. This correspondence
between think-aloud and verbal recall is shown in Excerpts 2 (with
101 The Relationship Between Reading Comprehension And Strategies Of Readers:
A Case Study Of Utm Students
highlighted material focusing on the example in question).
Text Think-aloud Verbal recall
#33 Former British
took over an
nation and by the
power of her will
helped to transform
it into a nation
ftting her vision oI
a more privatised,
This means that
aa… former British
Margaret Thatcher is a
because aa… because
she transformed the
nation the British the
United Kingdom aa…
while to aa… nation that
is more aa… competitive
and hard working. Aa…
before she takes over, the
nation is industrialised
drifting which means
aa… aa… the nation
concentrated more on
industrial rather than
relationship. Aa… no I
mean aa… the employee
of the aa… in the
company for example,
pay more attention in
achieve achieving the
goal of organisation in
order to get good aa…
good rewards rather than
they feel that aa… they
they are responsible to
have good performance.
And there are some
prominent leaders are in
the world. And some of
aa… one of them aa…
there are some famous
t r a n s f o r ma t i o n a l
leaders in this world,
aa… the one example
of them is former
English Prime Minis…
Prime Minister aa…
the former British
aa… who successfully
nation from an
industrial nation to
a hard-working and
with her power.
102 Research In English Language Teaching
In the example above, the initial part oI Hanz`s think-aloud
suggests that he understood the information about Margaret Thatcher
being one of the transformational leaders in this world. The later
part of the think-aloud, however, suggests that he might not have
understood the original content of the text, since he tried to explain
the meaning of the phrase ‘industrially drifting nation’ as ‘the nation
concentrated more on industrial rather than interpersonal relationship’
in his think-aloud. The same kind of misunderstanding can be seen
in his verbal recall when he mentioned ‘Margaret Thatcher who
successfully transformed the nation from an industrial nation to a
hard-working and competitive nation…’. He, in fact, produced a
Meaning Transforming idea unit (MT IU- 4a) which refers to an idea
unit that has changed either the NP (noun phrase) or VP (verb phrase)
of the original text which resulted in the alteration of the meaning
of the text. In this respect, he had transformed the NP ‘industrially
drifting nation’ to ‘an industrial nation’. There may be two reasons
as to why he interpreted the original text differently. First, he might
not have understood the meaning of the word ‘drifting’ and therefore
ignored it. Second, it is a common knowledge among Malaysians
that United Kingdom is an industrialised country. It may be that his
background knowledge was being brought into play. This example,
therefore, adds further support to the notion of a relationship between
Hanz`s think-aloud and verbal recall.
On the other hand, there are also instances of a lack of
correspondence between the think-aloud and verbal recall protocols.
The Iollowing Excerpt 3 suggests that Hanz might have misunderstood
sentence 12 of Text 4-Conceptions of the Manager in his think-aloud
protocol but this was not shown in his verbal recall.
103 The Relationship Between Reading Comprehension And Strategies Of Readers:
A Case Study Of Utm Students
In the example above, the researcher may summarise that
Hanz interpreted the phrase little Iamiliarity` as meaning quite
familiar’. However, in stating that ‘the students of business schools
should have familiarity with the model of Weber’, he seems to be
inIerring a lack oI Iamiliarity. In this respect, Hanz`s think-aloud and
verbal recall protocols do not correspond.
To summarise, the data described in this section suggest
that Hanz played an active role in processing the texts, employing
both surIace and deep level strategies. Although Hanz`s processing
strategies were predominantly text-based, he made use of background
knowledge-based strategies especially when reading Mechanical
Engineering texts. This confrms earlier hypotheses concerning some
possible infuence oI background knowledge on the reading process.
In addition, the data suggests that Hanz`s processing strategies Ior both
discipline texts were in large measure associated with clause/sentence
level units in the source texts. A difference between the two discipline
areas is also observed in the processing strategies associated with
word/phrase level with more in the case of Mechanical Engineering
than Management texts. A closer examination of the data suggests than
Text Think-aloud Verbal recall
students of business
in business schools,
at least until recently,
were likely to have
with the Weberian
This means that
em… those studying
management in business
schools can recognise
the formulation of
Weber and the Weberian
they can they are
familiar at least a
little familiar with the
Weberian approach to
The students of
familiarity with the
model of Weber.
104 Research In English Language Teaching
Hanz attempted to explain or guess the meaning oI a term which posed
some diIfculties to him. In terms oI the Irequency oI a combination
oI strategies, the examples indicated that Hanz employed a variety
oI strategy types to process the meaning oI the texts. His fexibility
in moving from one type of strategy to another suggests the different
route he took to understand the meaning of the texts. Furthermore,
a number of instances in his think-aloud and verbal recall protocols
suggested a correspondence between the frequency of strategies and
production of idea units in the verbal recall.
RQ2. Is there an association between Hani’s reading strategies
and reading comprehension?
Hani was a second year female student majoring in
Management. Based on the English Language Profciency Test result,
her language profciency level was advanced.
Close observation of Hani’s idea unit production reveals
some interesting fndings. First, Hani had a tendency to produce
more Meaning Transforming than Meaning Preserving idea units
for both discipline texts. It is not clear why this happens. Firstly,
it may be that when reading engineering texts she could not really
understand the content of the texts and therefore transformed the
meaning of the texts in her protocol. When reading the management
texts, however, she tended to use her background knowledge to go
beyond the content of the texts and therefore also transformed the
meaning of the original texts in her protocol. Secondly, she produced
more Meaning Preserving and Meaning Transforming idea units for
within- than outside-discipline texts. This suggests that there may
be a background knowledge effect occurring when Hani processed
within- than outside-discipline texts.
The protocols are examined in order to explore any possible
relationship between Hani’s think-aloud and verbal recall protocols.
The following Excerpt 6, taken from sentences 1 and 2 of Text 2,
illustrates instances of the data where there seems to be a relationship
between the two types of protocol.
105 The Relationship Between Reading Comprehension And Strategies Of Readers:
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The protocols of sentences 1 and 2 illustrate that when Hani
showed signs of understanding the text in her think-aloud, the same
content also appeared in her verbal recall protocol. When interpreting
sentence 1, Hani attempted to paraphrase the text in her think-aloud
by stating the name of the book author, James McGregor Burns.. This
same information was also found in her verbal recall.
As for sentence 2, although Hani tended to produce a long
Text Think-aloud Verbal recall
#1- A number of
years ago, James
wrote a book called
had a major impact
on the course of
A few years ago there’s
an author named James
McGregor Burns who
wrote a book called
Leadership that had an
aa… very major big
effect on the leadership
A few years ago
an author wrote a
leadership book I mean
the author is called his
name is Burns okay.
#2- Burns argued
that leadership could
be viewed as either
a transactional and
He argues that
leadership could be seen
as aa… transactional
process. If transactional
that means aa…
aspect aa… business
or a business and
transformational is to
transform things or to
do let’s say there’s a
thing that we create
them aa… we create
them we the thing that
we transform em…
using our innovative
He wrote that
generally there are
two types of leaders;
one is transactional
leader and the other
106 Research In English Language Teaching
think-aloud, the same kind of information could also be found in
her verbal recall. In both cases, it is noted that the verbal recalls are
shorter than the think-aloud. This may be due to the presence of the
original text during the think-aloud task but not during the verbal
However, there are also instances of a lack of a relationship
between the two types of protocol. One such example can be seen in
Excerpt 5 which is taken from sentence 3 of Text 2.
Text Think-aloud Verbal recall
he suggested, are
on quid pro quo.
essentially based on
quid pro quo
In this example, although Hani tried to interpret the text in
her think-aloud, she seemed to have a problem in understanding the
phrase ‘quid pro quo’, and she did not proceed with interpreting
further the meaning of the sentence. In her verbal recall, the content
was not recalled. It may be that Hani could not understand the phrase
‘quid pro quo’ which prevented her from recalling the content in her
verbal recall. This example suggests that although Hani mentioned
the content in her think-aloud, the content did not appear in her verbal
recall. This indicates a lack of relationship between Hani’s think-aloud
and verbal recall protocols. It is noted, however, that her inability to
understand the original text may have hindered her from recalling
the content in her verbal recall.
107 The Relationship Between Reading Comprehension And Strategies Of Readers:
A Case Study Of Utm Students
The evidence highlighted earlier indicates that Hani varied
her processing behaviour. The types of strategies she commonly
used included ‘reading aloud’, ‘repeating text’, ‘paraphrasing’,
‘making inferences’ and ‘using background knowledge’. Of these
fve strategies, there seems to be a pattern in her employment oI
‘paraphrasing’ and ‘using background knowledge’ strategies. While
she employed more ‘paraphrasing’ strategies for the Mechanical
Engineering texts, she also tended to employ more ‘activating
background knowledge’ strategies for the Management texts. In terms
of the level of processing, Hani’s processing strategies were more
drawn on information at clause/sentence level. However, it must be
noted that the frequency of strategies prompted by word/phrase level
is moderate. With regard to the sequence of strategies, Hani employed
a similar number of limited-strategy and multi-strategy sequences for
texts of both discipline texts. Overall, she employed many strategies
and produced a high number of idea units, indicating the possibility
of a relationship between the number of strategies she used and the
idea units she produced. However, it must be noted that there were
also instances where little relationship were observed between her
think-aloud and verbal recall.
In conclusion, Hani showed the characteristics of a good
reader. She not only used many strategies, the type of strategy also
varied. As noted earlier fve types oI strategies were commonly used
by Hani; ‘reading aloud’, repeating text’, ‘paraphrasing’, ‘making
inferences’ and ‘using background knowledge’. It is noted that
‘making inferences’ and ‘using background knowledge’ are two
types of strategy commonly reported in many studies (Kobeil, 1999;
Kletzien, 1991; Pritchard, 1990; SteIIensen and Joag-Dev, 1984).
Therefore, these strategies may be naturally employed by readers in
processing a text. However, strategies like ‘reading aloud’, ‘repeating
text’ and ‘paraphrasing’ are the types of strategy which may occur
due to protocol method employed in this study. For instance, when
we observe the data closely we discover that ‘paraphrasing’ strategy
occurred after Hani employed either the ‘reading aloud’ or ‘repeating
text’ strategies. This seems to indicate the Hani was processing the
108 Research In English Language Teaching
text closely, part by part. The ‘reading aloud’ strategy was used
mainly to indicate to the researcher at which point of the text she
RQ3. Is there a relationship between Ilyaz`s reading strategies
and reading comprehension?
Ilyaz was a second year male student majoring in mechanical
engineering. Based on the English Language Profciency Test result,
his profciency level was intermediate.
A number oI examples Irom Ilyaz`s think-aloud and verbal
recall data indicates that he was able to recall the content of a text
when it was verbalised in his think-aloud, but was not able to recall it
when it was not verbalised frst. The Iollowing excerpt 6 taken Irom
sentences 7 to 9 of Text 1 is an example.
Text Think-aloud Verbal recall
#7- A fan-coil system applied
without provision for positive
ventilation or one taking
ventilation air through an
aperture is one of the lowest
frst-cost central station type
perimeter systems in use today.
system is the one
of… is one of the
systems in use
Fan-coil is one
of the lowest
#8- It requires no ventilation
air ducts, is comparatively easy
to install in existing structures,
and as with any central station
perimeter system utilising water
in pipes instead of air ducts, its
use results in considerable space
savings throughout the building.
109 The Relationship Between Reading Comprehension And Strategies Of Readers:
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Excerpt 6 shows the correlation between Ilyaz`s think-aloud
and verbal recall. When the content was verbalised in his think-
aloud, he tended to verbalise it in his verbal recall. In the examples of
sentences 7 and 9, Ilyaz showed evidence oI interpreting part oI the
content of the text by using ‘paraphrasing’ and ‘making inferences’
strategies. This content was also shown in his verbal recall. For
instance, when Ilyaz inIerred the meaning oI thermostat setting`,
the same kind of information could be seen in his recall. However,
evidence from sentence 8 indicates that when he skipped the content of
the text in his think-aloud, his verbal recall data do not show evidence
of the same content matter. This suggests that there may be some level
of association between his strategies and idea units.
A substantial number of examples from the think-aloud and
verbal recall data indicate a lack of association between the two
protocols, however, where the contents of the texts were verbalised
in the think-aloud protocol but not in the verbal recall protocol. For
instance, Ilyaz did not recall inIormation Irom sentences 7 to 16 oI
Text 2 in his verbal recall protocol although his think-aloud showed
that these sentences were processed. Looking more closely at the
think-aloud protocol oI these sentences suggests that Ilyaz might
not have understood the texts since he employed ‘repeating text’ and
‘changing sentence structure’ strategies. Excerpt 7 illustrates the lack
oI relationship between Ilyaz`s think-aloud and verbal recall protocols
for sentences 7 to 8 of Text 2.
#9- All-water systems have
individual room control with
quick response to thermostat
setting and freedom from
recirculation of air from other
setting is used to
control the water
setting to control
110 Research In English Language Teaching
Although the data seem to suggest that Ilyaz`s processing
behaviour refects an unskilled reader, Irom the psycholinguistic
perspective this processing behaviour, to a certain extent, may be
instrument induced. For instance, there were four types of strategies
which Ilyaz used predominantly: repeating text`, synonym
substitution’, ‘paraphrasing’ and ‘making inferences’. Of these
four commonly used strategies, it is felt that ‘repeating text’ and
paraphrasing` might not occur in Ilyaz`s natural reading. As noted
earlier he employed the ‘repeating text’ strategy because he was having
problems in processing the texts. Therefore, ‘repeating text’ strategy
was a way in which Ilyaz could process the text part by part. This
indicates that the strategy may be instrument induced. Furthermore,
because Ilyaz was required to verbalise his thoughts while reading,
Text Think-aloud Verbal recall
leadership refers to the
process oI infuencing
major changes in the
attitudes and assumptions of
organisation members and
building commitment for
the organisation’s mission,
objectives and strategies.
The process of
changes in the attitude
and the assumption
members and building
and strategies is a
#8 Transformational leaders
are those who brings about
“change, innovation, and
leadership have to
bring out the change,
111 The Relationship Between Reading Comprehension And Strategies Of Readers:
A Case Study Of Utm Students
one of the ways he used to inform his understanding of the text was
paraphrasing the text. If, for instance, he was reading for pleasure
where thinking-aloud was not required, the need to paraphrase the
texts might not arise. As noted by Kobeil (1999), ‘it is possible that
in natural reading in a normal setting, readers may not feel the need
In conclusion, Ilyaz exhibited the processing behaviour oI an
unskilled reader. He employed very few strategies and produced very
few idea units. Evidence from his think-aloud protocol shows that he
restricted himself to text-based processing. In processing Mechanical
Engineering texts he did not employ background knowledge-based
strategies at all, and only once for each of the Management texts.
Closer examination oI the sequence oI strategies suggests that Ilyaz
predominantly employed limited-strategy sequences compared to
multi-strategy sequences. This indicates that he was not using many
strategies in order to interpret the text at a deeper level. While there
are some examples from the data which suggest some levels of
association between Ilyaz`s think-aloud and verbal recall protocols,
there also exists some which suggest a lack of relationship as shown
by excerpt 7.
RQ4. Is there a relationship between Irnie’s reading strategies
and reading comprehension?
Irnie was a second year female student majoring in
management. Based on the English Language Profciency result, her
language profciency level was intermediate.
There seems to be little difference between Irnie’s processing
of the texts. No difference is observed in the frequency of strategy
types between the two discipline texts. In terms of the overall number
of idea units, Meaning Preserving and Meaning Transforming idea
units, the mean differences between the texts are small. In general,
the fndings seem to suggest that there is no diIIerence in processing
all texts. One possible explanation for this result may be due to Irnie’s
overall processing behaviour, that is, in general the data suggest
a passive interaction occurring between the reader and texts. She
employed very few strategies and in turn produced very few idea units.
112 Research In English Language Teaching
Her limited linguistic ability may be a major hindrance to the text
processing. In general, she had the tendency to employ a ‘repeating
text’ strategy for both discipline texts which did not seem to help her
in understanding the texts.
In general, there seems to be a subtle relationship between
Irnie’s think-aloud and verbal recall. There is evidence showing that
when she verbalised the content of the text in her think-aloud, she
also tended to recall the same content matter in her verbal recall.
One such example can be seen in the following excerpt 8 (sentence
2, Text 4).
Text Think-aloud Verbal recall
manager and the
person who brings
labour and capital
and puts them to
Actually no distinction
between the manager
and the entrepreneur
because aa… they
always cooperate with
each other and brings
together land labour and
capital and put them to
However, the classical
economist makes no
the manager and the
that they are make
cooperation to achieve
aa… objective, aim and
create a strategies for
In this example, Irnie began the think-aloud task by repeating
the initial part of the sentence using the ‘repeating text’ strategy. From
there she inferred that the manager and entrepreneur cooperated with
each other in putting together the resources in question. The same
kind of content was verbalised in her verbal recall task, in which Irnie
produced MP1a-replicating idea unit, followed by MT5-adding new
information to original IUs that alters meaning.
113 The Relationship Between Reading Comprehension And Strategies Of Readers:
A Case Study Of Utm Students
On the other hand, there are a number of instances from Irnie’s
data which suggest a lack of a relationship between her think-aloud
and verbal recall as shown in the following excerpt 9. In this example,
Irnie seemed to be facing problems in understanding the texts, and
therefore, repeated the original texts in her think-aloud. In her verbal
recall, the contents were not verbalised.
Text Think-aloud Verbal recall
#20. Alternate systems of
cooling include the use of
The alternative system
of cooling includes
aa… the use of chilled
#21. Water may be cooled
by refrigerant at a central
location and run through
coils at other places
From this method
water may be cooled by
refrigerant at a central
location can run through
coils at other places
To summarise, there are many instances in Irnie’s data which
suggest both a relationship and a lack of relationship between her
think-aloud and verbal recall. Irnie predominantly used limited-
strategy sequences in her processing. She had the tendency to skip
some sentences of a text especially when the sentences were long and
complex. She commonly employed ‘repeating text’, ‘paraphrasing’
and ‘making inferences’ strategies. In general, there seemed to be little
differences observed between Irnie’s processing within-discipline
texts and outside-discipline texts. This may be partly due to the
limited number of strategies employed by Irnie. She tended to repeat
the texts when she could not explain the meaning in her own words.
It is diIfcult to know how much Irnie had understood the texts she
114 Research In English Language Teaching
read, since she did not inform her ‘failure to understand the text’. In
fact, she did not use the ‘stating failure to understand text’ strategy
at all. Although Irnie did not express her frustrations when she faced
problems in understanding the meaning of a text, she tended to give
up easily and abandon the processing as shown by the following
examples in Excerpt 10.
Overall, Irnie did not employ many types of strategies; only
two types of strategies were commonly employed, namely ‘repeating
text’ and ‘making inferences’. As noted earlier, although she used
‘making inferences’ strategy she did not attempt to process the
text at a deeper level. Her processing strategies were mostly at the
surface level and predominantly text-based. In terms of the number
of strategies used in one sequence, Irnie tended to employ limited-
strategy sequences more than multi-strategy sequences. Because she
employed few strategies and produced few idea units, the difference
between reading the Mechanical Engineering and the Management
Text Think-aloud Verbal recall
#7- To Weber, bureaucracy
did not have the negative
connotations often heard in
casual conversations: he used
the term simply to point to
a phenomenon of growing
importance even in his time:
the large organisation with
fxed positions linked together
in a hierarchical pyramid, with
specialisation and division of
labour and with established
rules and regulations
they don’t have
heard in casual
1. repeating text
115 The Relationship Between Reading Comprehension And Strategies Of Readers:
A Case Study Of Utm Students
texts could not be detected. In general, there seems to be no difference
in her processing between the two discipline texts.
From the perspective of psycholinguistics, it is noted that two
types of strategies seem to occur fairly frequently, ‘repeating text’
and paraphrasing`. Irnie was having diIfculties in processing the
texts. She therefore tended to repeat the text in order to process it.
One of the ways used to explain her understanding of the text through
the think-aloud method is by paraphrasing. It is felt that both these
strategies may not occur frequently in Irnie’s natural reading.
In general, some relationship can be claimed between the students’
think-aloud and verbal recall. For Hanz and Hani, their data suggest
that the more strategies they employed the more idea units they
produced. In the case of Hani, however, more Meaning Transforming
idea units than Meaning Preserving idea units were produced, which
may have affected the overall relationship between her think-aloud
and verbal recall. As Ior Ilyaz and Irnie, their limited use oI strategies
resulted in their limited production of idea units. A closer observation
of the think-aloud and verbal recall data of all the subjects suggests
that when they verbalised the text content in their think-aloud task,
they recalled the same content in their verbal recall. Although some
levels of relationship are observed between the think-aloud and verbal
recall data, there are some instances in the data which suggest a lack
of relationship between the subjects’ think-aloud and verbal recall.
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116 Research In English Language Teaching
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Unpublished Ph.D. Thesis. The University of Manchester.
Horiba, Y. (1996). Comprehension processes in L2 reading:
language competence, textual coherence and inferences.
Johns, A.M. and Mayes, P. 1990. An analysis of summary
protocols of university ESL students. Applied Linguistics,
11, 3, 253-271.
Kembo, J. (1997). Inferencing in a Second Language: How Far is
Language Prohciency a Factor? Unpublished Ph.D. Thesis.
The University of Reading.
Kobeil, M. (1999). The Inßuence of Content Domain Knowleage
on the Reading Strategies and Reading Comprehension of
Tertiary Level Readers of English as a Foreign Language.
Unpublished Ph.D. Thesis. The University of Manchester.
Kroll, B. 1977. Combining ideas in written and spoken English: a
look at subordination and coordination. In E. O. Keenan and
T. Bennet (Eds.), Southern California Occasaional Papers
in Linguistics, 5, 69-108.
Li, S., and Munby, H. (1996). Metacognitive strategies in second
language academic reading: a qualitative investigation.
English for Specihc Purposes, 15, 3,199-216.
Pritchard, R. (1990). The effects of cultural schemata on reading
processing strategies. Reading Research Quarterly, 25, 4,
117 The Relationship Between Reading Comprehension And Strategies Of Readers:
A Case Study Of Utm Students
Taillefer, G., and Pugh, T. (1998). Strategies for professional
reading in L1 and L2. Journal of Research in Reading, 21,
Zainal, Z. (2003). An investigation into the effects of discipline
knowleage, prohciency ana genre on reaaing comprehension
ana strategies of Malaysian ESP stuaents. Unpublished
Thesis. The University of Reading.
119 The Comparative Effect Of Language Used In
Recall Protocol In Reading Comprehension
THE COMPARATIVE EFFECT
OF LANGUAGE USED IN
RECALL PROTOCOL IN
This study raises the issue of language of protocol used as an instrument
for data collection, particularly in a study of reading comprehension
and strategies. The question raised is whether the language of protocol,
either L1 or L2, will make a difference in the performance of readers
when recalling information from a text. Protocol methods, unlike
other testing methods, used in reading comprehension studies have
intrigued many researchers because they indirectly reveal a reader’s
cognitive process when reading.
Alderson (2000) notes that the study of reading can be divided
into two: the process and the product. The product of reading is
concerned with what understanding of the text a reader has reached.
This can be achieved through some form of a comprehension test.
The process of reading, on the other hand, is concerned with how
the reader reaches the understanding of the text. Alderson (2000:
3-4) notes that ‘understanding the process of reading is presumably
important to an understanding of the nature of reading, but at the same
time it is evidently a diIfcult thing to do.` The Iact that the reading
process is a silent and private activity, methods such as think-aloud
protocol, recall protocol or miscue analysis are used in many studies
Studies of reading comprehension have used a number of
120 Research In English Language Teaching
different methods of collecting data, such as cloze (Koh, 1985), true/
false statements (Clapham, 1996), multiple-choice questions (Kasper,
1996), short-answer questions (Hsiu & Grave, 1995) information
transIer tasks (e.g. fow-chart or table) (Clapham, 1996), summary
(Oliviera, 1988) and recall methods (Johnson, 1982; Lee, 1986 and
Kobeil, 1999). The question arises as to the validity of these tests or
methods in measuring the constructs in question.
Urquhart and Weir (1998) provided some criticisms regarding
the testing methods used to measure reading comprehension,
particularly gap-filling, cloze and multiple-choice questions.
They claim that these tests focus on ‘local comprehension at the
microlinguistic level rather than global comprehension of ideas
encoded by the writer across the text as a whole’ (pp 157). While
gap-flling and cloze seem to emphasise the perspective oI reading
as a bottom-up process of decoding words at local or sentence level,
multiple-choice questions have other disadvantages, in particular, in
potentially distracting the readers through the presence of different
options which ‘otherwise might not have been thought of’ (Urquhart
and Weir, 1998). In the case of multiple-choice test, Bernhardt (1991)
notes that the readers may be able to guess a correct answer without
reading the texts, indicating that multiple-choice questions may not
be measuring readers’ comprehension of the text.
The methods discussed above tend to measure comprehension
in terms of the product but not the process of reading. For this reason,
results from these tests may not reveal how a reader comprehends a
text either at a local (or sentence level) or at a global level. Since our
study focuses on the cognitive processes of the readers, this researcher
selected verbal protocol method as the research tool.
Verbal reporting is often used to gather information regarding a
person’s mental processes as ‘the workings of the human mind
cannot be observed directly the way other objects oI scientifc
121 The Comparative Effect Of Language Used In
Recall Protocol In Reading Comprehension
endeavours can be.’ (Jaaskelainen, 1995). Three common terms are
assigned to describe the mental processes of a learner: Introspection,
Retrospection and Think-aloud protocols.
According to Nunan (1992), Introspection is the process of
observation and refection on one`s thoughts, Ieelings, motives,
reasoning processes and mental states with a view to determining the
ways in which these processes and states determine our behaviour’.
Retrospection, sometimes referred to as delayed recall, on the other
hand, refers to reports which describe the cognitive processes of a
person after he/she has performed a task (Ericsson and Simon, 1980;
Jaaskelainen, 1995; Kobeil, 1999). Think-aloud protocol refers
to the process through which the readers verbalise their thoughts
while processing a text. They are encouraged to disclose everything
they think about, whether ‘related to a task or not’ (Rankin,1988).
Jaaskelainen (1995) notes,
thinking aloud differs from classical introspection and
retrospective responses to specifc probes in that thinking
aloud is undirected and concurrent. In other words, when
thinking aloud is used to elicit data, the subject is not, as
a rule, required to verbalise specifc inIormation, and the
verbalisations are produced simultaneously with the task
In the past, these verbal reports have received criticisms
regarding their reliability as research instruments (Nisbett and Wilson,
1977). Nevertheless, these instruments have gained ‘respectability’
as research tools due to efforts in providing models and guidelines in
establishing their reliability (see Ericsson and Simon, 1980).
THINK-ALOUD AND RECALL PROTOCOLS
The think-aloud tasks used in real-time comprehension processes
studies can be categorised into three kinds: sentence-by-sentence
122 Research In English Language Teaching
talking, selective talking and after-the-fact talking (Olson et al.,
1984). In sentence-by-sentence talking, a subject is required to talk
after reading each sentence of a text. In selective talking, the subject
verbalises his thought at a certain point of the text. In after-the fact
talking, the subject verbalises his thoughts after he has read a text
(cf. retrospective method). Of the three, sentence-by-sentence talking
is most popularly used in reading comprehension research because
it reveals the reader’s real-time cognitive processes and does not
heavily depend on the reader’s LTM. Furthermore, it is suitable for
investigating a reader’s strategies and comprehension process of long
and complex texts.
Recall protocols also come in several forms depending on the
task or the type of readers who participate in the study. For instance,
Kobayashi’s (1995 cited in Urquhart and Weir, 1998) notion of recall
protocol covers a range of modes. She suggests that:
Recall protocols can be classifed as either oral or written in
terms of the language mode, or either immediate or delayed
in terms of time of recall, or either free or probed, i.e. with
or without cues for recalls. (cited in Urquhart & Weir, 1998:
Generally, studies employing recall protocol as a measure
of reading comprehension incorporate a wide range of recall types
as outlined by Kobayashi (1995). For example, Gambrell and
Koskinen (1991) employ immediate, oral and free retelling of stories
after subjects (L1) have read four texts, while Bernhardt (1991a)
employs immediate written and free recall in measuring the reading
comprehension of L2 subjects.
Fransson (1984) also provides three categories of recall which
relate to the different approaches adopted by the reader in recalling
the text, namely,
Mentioning-type: briefy mention the points discussed by the
123 The Comparative Effect Of Language Used In
Recall Protocol In Reading Comprehension
Description-type: provide moderate description of the points
in the text
Conclusion-oriented type: provides conclusions when
discussing problem or concept.
These recall types may indicate whether a subject is a surface
level reader or a deep-level reader. Readers who tend to use the
mentioning-type and description-type of recall are considered as
surface-level readers. They usually fail to see the connections between
the facts in the texts, such as how information presented in a diagram
can be integrated with the texts. Of these two types of recall, the
description-type is considered more extensive than the mentioning-
type. The conclusion-oriented type of recall, on the other hand, is
produced by deep-level readers who tend to search for conceptual
meanings of a text.
ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES OF PROTOCOL
Both think-aloud and recall protocols have a number of advantages as
research tools in studies of reading comprehension and strategies. The
advantages of these methods mostly stem from their unique role in
revealing the cognitive processes of a reader. Rankin (1988) notes that
the think-aloud method differs from introspection or retrospection, in
that in the latter methods the reader basically responds to prompts,
making him/her to report selectively according to the prompts.
However, in think-aloud procedures the reader indiscriminately talks
about his thoughts, whether related or unrelated to the reading texts. It
is the role of the researcher to analyse any emerging patterns from the
data rather than the subject becoming the analyst of his own cognitive
processes (Jaaskelainen, 1995). In contrast to methods which use
specifc prompts, the think-aloud method is likely to capture more
of the process (less is forgotten) more reliably (less is distorted)’
124 Research In English Language Teaching
(Jaaskelainen,1995). Similarly, the recall method is able to reveal
the cognitive processes of the readers which other methods may not
be able to. In contrast to testing methods such as multiple-choice or
cloze, the recall protocol is not directed by the questions set by the
researcher but rather is directed by the readers’ own understanding
of the text.
Think-aloud and recall methods also take into consideration
the interaction that takes place between a reader and a text, or a reader
and a writer (Rankin, 1988). A reader is free to question and judge the
text information, to predict the forthcoming content on the premise of
earlier content or even to criticise both the content and the writer of
the text. The interaction between participants and texts fts in with the
notion that reading is not an unidirectional passive process. Other data
elicitation methods using testing procedures such as multiple-choice
questions or cloze procedures which are extremely product-oriented
do not do this. In general, think-aloud and recall protocols allow the
reader to reveal his cognitive processes and interact with the meaning
of the text and the writer.
Despite these advantages, think-aloud and recall protocols
have some limitations. One of the issues is whether these methods
can really elicit complete information about the conscious and
unconscious cognitive processes of a reader. While the conscious
processes may manifest themselves in the think-aloud or recall,
the unconscious processes largely remain hidden, inaccessible and
‘probably unreportable’ (Jaaskelainen, 1995: 218). Likewise, recall
protocol, either written or verbalised, may not really be representative
of the subject’s total understanding of the text since the subject may
know more than has been recalled. Therefore, results based on the
recall data may misrepresent the actual level of comprehension.
Another limitation of think-aloud and recall methods is
that they are easily moulded by prompts and instructions (Pressley
and AIferbach, 1995). In studies which investigate a subject`s text
processing, prompts aimed at getting specifc answers can lead to the
skewing oI the data (Pressley and AIferbach, 1995). Furthermore, the
think-aloud method, in particular, potentially has an intrusive effect.
125 The Comparative Effect Of Language Used In
Recall Protocol In Reading Comprehension
By requiring a subject to think-aloud after reading each sentence of
the text, the reading process becomes unnatural. The subject’s think-
aloud may intrude in the otherwise continuous reading process.
With reference to recall protocol, the time gap between the
reading task and the recall task may be a problem. A researcher like
Bernhardt (1991) strenuously supports the use of immediate recall
protocol to measure subjects’ reading comprehension, since delayed
recalls may result in interference of knowledge from other sources
outside the text. In addition, delayed recalls may also cause subjects
to forget some information in the text.
Sometimes, ideas verbalised are fragmented and disjointed
and do not really disclose the actual meaning that was intended.
Interpretation of data collected through these methods is merely the
result of the researcher’s inferences. In addition, differences in text
processing can also be seen between L1 and L2 readers or readers
Irom diIIerent profciency levels.
LANGUAGE OF PROTOCOL
One issue regarding think-aloud and recall protocols which remains
unresolved is the problem of the language of protocol. In the 70’s
and early 80’s, many studies of reading comprehension using recall
protocol tend to use L2 as the language of the protocols. This was
partly due to their focus on how L2 or foreign students read texts
written in English (see Steffensen et al., 1979; Carrell, 1984).
However, Lee (1986) conducted a study with Spanish subjects,
with the aim of testing the effect of using L1 and L2 as the language
of the recall protocol. Results suggest that there was a main effect of
the language of protocol on the quantity of idea units in the recall. Lee
concludes that more information is yielded from subjects when their
protocol was conducted in L1 than L2. This fnding is supported by
Donin and Silva’s (1993) study which indicates that subjects tend to
recall less material in their L2 (French) than in their L1 (English).
126 Research In English Language Teaching
Further studies conducted by Roller and Matambo (1992) and
Upton (1993) yield diIIerent fndings regarding the language used in
the recall protocol. In Roller and Matambo’s study, which replicated
Carrell’s (1983) study, the subjects were found to recall better in their
L2 (English) than in their L1 (Shona). Although this seems to support
Carrell`s (1983) fndings, they caution that the result may be due to the
high L2 profciency level oI the subjects involved in their study.
Upton’s (1993) investigation with Japanese students produced
very diIIerent fndings regarding the eIIect oI the language used in
the recall. Upton`s fndings suggest that there is no diIIerence in
comprehension as revealed by the subjects’ recall, when the subjects
use their L1 or target language. The subjects’ comprehension did not
appear to differ according to the language used in their recall. It can
be claimed at this point that the issue of language of recall remains
unresolved. Further investigations need to be conducted in order to
ascertain the effectiveness of recalling in L1 over L2 or vice versa.
The subject of this study comprises 30 third-year TESL students from
Universiti Teknologi Malaysia. They were required to read two short
texts of about 450 words and write their understanding of the texts
in Malay Ior the frst text and in English Ior the second text. All the
subjects were Malay students.
The written protocols or retrospection was analysed according
to meaning preserving idea unit analysis (Johns and Mayes,1990).
Six types oI Meaning Preserving (MP) idea units are identifed:
MP1 (replicating idea units or sentences), MP2 (paraphrasing/
summarising), MP3 (combining idea units within paragraphs), MP4
((combining idea units across paragraphs), MP5 (text or paragraph
generalisation) and MP6 (inferencing or using background knowledge
but preserving the meaning/gist of the text.
This study attempts to fnd answers to the Iollowing research
127 The Comparative Effect Of Language Used In
Recall Protocol In Reading Comprehension
Is there a difference in performance when the subjects recalls
the texts in English and in Malay?
Table 1.0 shows the frequency of Meaning Preserving Idea Units
produced by the students in Malay and English.
Table 1.0 : Distribution of Idea Units
Types of Idea Units Malay % English %
MP 1 –replicating IUs or sentence 664 8.4 837 15.11
MP2 – paraphrasing/summarising 4987 63.5 3190 57.6
MP3 – combining IUs within
156 1.98 120 2.17
MP4 – combining IUs across
98 1.25 111 2.02
MP5 – text or paragraph generalisation 583 7.42 344 6.2
MP6 – inferencing or using
background knowledge but preserve
meaning/gist of text
1365 17.38 935 16.9
Total number of Idea Units 7853 100 5537 100
In the case of protocol in L1 (Malay), three types of idea units
had relatively higher proportions; MP2 – paraphrasing/ summarising
(63.5%), MP5 – text or paragraph generalisation (7.42%) and
MP6- inferencing or using background knowledge but preserve the
meaning/gist of text (17.38%). The results from the protocol in L2
(English) also shows three types of idea units with relatively higher
proportion than the protocol in Malay, although the difference is
128 Research In English Language Teaching
not signifcant; MP1 replicating IUs or sentence (15.11°),MP3-
combining IUs within paragraphs (2.17%) and MP4-combining IUs
across paragraphs (2.02%).
The highest percentage of idea units for protocols in L1
(Malay) (63.5%) and in L2 (English) (57.6%) is MP2 (paraphrasing/
summarising). This indicates that subjects attempted to comprehend
and interpret the meaning of the text through paraphrasing or
summarising. In comparison to English, the Malay protocol yields
more MP2. This suggests that while focusing on the reproduction of
idea units at local or sentence level, they also tend to produce idea
units that are at the macro-propositional level. The production of more
MP2 was possibly Iacilitated by their profciency in L1 than in L2,
assisting fuller comprehension of these texts. A higher percentage
of MP2 in L1 than in L2 suggests that subjects demonstrate their
conceptualisation of the meaning of the text by paraphrasing and
Results of MP6 idea units (making inferences/using
background knowledge) also show a high percentage for both
protocols, with slightly more units being produced in L1 (Malay)
(17.38%) than in L2 (English) (16.9%) protocols. This type of idea
unit refects the subjects` use oI relevant inIerences to explain their
better understanding of the text in L1 than in L2.
In contrast, results show that subjects tend to produce more
MP1 idea units (replicating IUs or sentences) when they recall in
L2 (English) than in L1 (Malay). Replication of text may occur for
two reasons; frstly, the subjects might perceive that some oI the text
information or concepts were important but could not rephrase the
information using their own words in their L1; and secondly, they
might purposely avoid paraphrasing the text using their own words
in order to prevent losing the original meaning of the text. Although
this researcher notes that memorising may not necessarily mean
comprehending, it appears to be one of the learning behaviours
adopted by the students. In Johns and Mayes’ (1990) study with
respect to summary writing, the same behaviour was reported.
Overall, the results show that the number of idea units of
129 The Comparative Effect Of Language Used In
Recall Protocol In Reading Comprehension
protocol in L1 (Malay) is higher than that in L2 (English), indicating
that the students were able to recall more idea units in their L1 than
There may be two reasons why the results are such. Firstly, this
can be explained through the concept of interdependence hypothesis
which suggests that subjects are able to use both languages to recall
the text, and that their higher profciency in L1 (Malay) assists them to
produce more idea units in L1 (Malay) than in L2 (English), although
in general they may not have problems in conceptualising the meaning
of the texts. Secondly, this can be explained through the interaction
that takes place between a reader and the texts. In this case, the readers
may feel freer to question, predict or explain the information in the
text, in their L1 than in L2.
In conclusion, this study suggests that protocol methods can be used
as a tool to collect data in reading comprehension study. The protocol
methods have the advantage of revealing the cognitive processes of
a reader, besides the interaction that occurs between the reader and
the texts. This interaction between participants and texts fts in the
notion that reading is an active process.
As reading is a complex process involving both lower level
and higher level processes, the protocol methods enable researchers
to investigate the levels of processes, such as making inferences,
paraphrasing, summarising and using background knowledge. The
methods are said to be the best methods to capture the higher level
processes as they come to consciousness while the reader is processing
Results from this study suggest that subjects produced more
idea units when they verbalised their understanding in L1 than in
L2. These results support the fnding oI Lee`s (1986) study which
promotes that readers tend to recall better in L1 than in L2.
130 Research In English Language Teaching
Alderson, J. C. 2000. Assessing Reading. Cambridge University
Bernhardt, E. B. 1991a. Reading Development in a Second
Language. Norwood, N.J. Ablex.
Bernhardt, E. B. 1991b. A psycholinguistic perspective on second
language literacy. In J. H. Hulstijn and J. F. Matter (Eds.),
Reading in Two Languages, AILA Review, 8, (31-44).
Carrell, P. L. 1983. Three components of background knowledge in
reading comprehension. Language Learning, 33, 2, 183-
Carrell, P. L. 1984a. The effects of rhetorical organisation on ESL
readers. TESOL Quarterly, 19, 4, 727-753.
Clapham, C. 1996. The Development of IELTS: A Study of the
Effect of Background Knowledge on Reading Comprehension.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Donin, J., and Silva, M. 1993. The relationship between frst- and
second-language reading comprehension of occupation
specifc texts. Language Learning, 43, 373-401.
Ericsson, K. A., and Simon, H. A. 1980. Verbal reports as data.
Psychological Review, 87, 215-51.
Fransson, A. (1984). Cramming or understanding? Effects of
intrinsic and extrinsic motivation on approach to learning
and test performance. In J. C. Alderson and A. H. Urquhart
(Eds.), Reading in a Foreign Language. (86-115). London:
Gambrell, L. and Koskinen, P. S. (1991). Retelling and the reading
comprehension oI profcient and less-profcient readers.
Journal of Educational Research, 84, 6, July-Aug. 356-362.
Koh, M.Y. 1985. The role of prior knowledge in reading
comprehension. Reading in a Foreign Language, 3,1, 375-
131 The Comparative Effect Of Language Used In
Recall Protocol In Reading Comprehension
Hsiu, C. C., and Graves, M. F. 1995. Effects of previewing and
providing background knowledge on Taiwanese college
students’ comprehension of American short stories. TESOL
Quarterly, 29, 4, 663-684.
Johns, A. M., and Mayes, P. 1990. An analysis of summary
protocols of university ESL students. Applied Linguistics,
11, 3, 253-271.
Johnson, P. (1982). Effects of reading comprehension on building
background knowledge. TESOL Quarterly , 16, 503-516.
Johns, A. M., and Mayes, P. 1990. An analysis of summary
protocols of university ESL students. Applied Linguistics,
11, 3, 253-271.
Kasper, L. F. (1996). Using discipline-based texts to boost college
ESL reading instruction. Journal of Adolescent and Adult
Literacy, 39, 4, 298-306.
Kobayashi, M. (1995). Effects of Text Organisation and Test
Format on Reading Comprehension Test Performance.
Unpublished Ph.D. Thesis. The Thames Valley University.
Kobeil, M. (1999). The Inßuence of Content Domain Knowleage
on the Reading Strategies and Reading Comprehension of
Tertiary Level Readers of English as a Foreign Language.
Unpublished Ph.D. Thesis. The University of Manchester.
Jaaskelainen, R. 1995. Thinking aloud as a data collection method.
In H. Nyyssonen and L. Kuure (Eds.), Principle of
Accessibility and Design in English Texts- Research in
Progress. Text and Discourse Studies, 12, 207-228.
Lee, J. F. 1986. On the use of recall task to measure L2 reading
comprehension. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 8,
Pressley, M., and AIferbach, P. 1995. Verbal Protocols of Reading:
The Nature of Constructively Responsive Reading. Lawrence
Erlbaum Associates, Publishers.
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Oliviera, V. Q. S. F. 1988. The relevance of background knowledge
or schemata in EFL reading comprehension. ESPecialist, 9,
Rankin, M. J. 1988. Designing thinking-aloud studies in ESL
reading. Reading in a Foreign Language, 4, 2, 119-132.
Roller, C., and Matambo, A. R. 1992. Bilingual readers’ use of
background knowledge in learning from text. TESOL
Quarterly, 26, 1, 129-141.
Steffensen, M. S., Joag-Dev, C., and Anderson, R. 1979. A cross-
cultural perspective on reading comprehension. Reading
Research Quarterly, 15, 1, 10-29.
Upton, T. A. 1993. The Inßuence of First ana Secona Language
Use on the Comprehension and Recall of Written English
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Process, Product and Practice. London: Longman.
133 Facilitating Content Acquisition Through Language : The ‘Wall Poster’ Technique
ACQUISITION THROUGH LANGUAGE :
THE ‘WALL POSTER’ TECHNIQUE
ABDUL HALIM ABDUL RAOF
The ‘wall poster’ activity is one of the tasks conducted in English for
Civil Engineering (ECE) classrooms aimed at facilitating learners’
acquisition of the content area of the subject in their specialized
discipline of civil engineering.
The English for Civil Engineering programme is based on
a research project on English Ior Specifc Purposes conducted in
Universiti Teknologi Malaysia. The research was an attempt to create
a programme which is derived from and integrated with the Faculty
of Civil Engineering’s mainstream academic programme through
collaboration between the English language instructors and the
subject specialists. (Please refer to Khairi et al, 1995 for a description
of the programme; Masputeriah et al., 1995 and Abdul Halim et
al., 1996 for a discussion on the approach to materials preparation,
nature of activities and the role of language instructors and language
THE ENGLISH FOR CIVIL ENGINEERING PROGRAMME
The ECE programme evolved Irom a Iunctional defnition oI ESP
(refer Khairi et al., 1995) which aims to prepare learners for effective
134 Research In English Language Teaching
participation in a specifc academic or proIessional community oI
The objectives of the project include the following:
To develop the communication skills and English language
competence of Civil Engineering undergraduates so as to
enhance eIfciency in their academic work.
To assist the Civil Engineering Faculty, via the development
of language competence, in its effort to prepare the learners
for effective participation in the professional community of
To enhance the marketability of the Civil Engineering
graduates through the development of communicative
competence and the inculcation of attributes such as
independence, initiative and confdence.
THE ‘ WALL POSTER’ ACTIVITY
The ‘wall poster’ presentation is an activity which is conducted
to achieve the main objective of the ECE programme, which is to
enhance English competency of Civil Engineering undergraduates to
ensure eIfciency in their academic work . The aim is to assist learners
to independently extract relevant information from Civil Engineering
texts, take down main points from their reading and subsequently
present key information concisely and accurately. These skills are
regarded as vital to enhance learners’ understanding of concepts and
principles related to their academic subjects. The reading skill is
also seen as an essential part of the learning process in the academic
training of civil engineering undergraduates before they embark on
more demanding tasks of oral and written communication both for
academic and professional purposes.
135 Facilitating Content Acquisition Through Language : The ‘Wall Poster’ Technique
The task of preparing the ‘ wall poster’ is part of an enculturation
task which aims to assist learners in the process of initiation and
assimilation into the academic culture of civil engineering. Being
a new member oI the civil engineering feld, learners need to be
exposed to the subject matter of civil engineering subjects to ensure
that relevant linguistic and conceptual data are made available to the
learners. The learning activity is built around conceptual areas / topics
of a reading based on a civil engineering subject. The civil engineering
subject identifed in this task is 'Materials in Civil Engineering¨
which is one of the key subjects towards the understanding of civil
engineering principles and applications.
The ‘wall poster’ activity is thus generated by and built around
the requirements oI the¨ Materials in Civil Engineering` subject in
terms of key texts to be used, conceptual areas to be covered, notes
to be taken and vocabulary and structures to be acquired. With the
practice provided in skills such as identifying relevant information
and taking down key information from their reading, this activity
will help to enhance learners` perIormance in the 'Materials in
Civil Engineering¨ subject. It is important to note that although
lectures are conducted in Bahasa Malaysia and that the medium of
instruction is also in Bahasa Malaysia, it is imperative that learners
refer to reference books which are mostly in English and gain access
to key information in their academic subjects so as to become more
competent in their studies.
The reading task for the ‘wall poster’ activity is thus purpose-
driven. Learners treat the reading texts as vehicles for information
where they extract relevant information, share and exchange key
points from their reading before deciding which information to include
in the posters. The process of gathering information is done through
group work activities which allows for interaction and negotiation
of meaning. The acquisition of content is facilitated by creating the
conditions necessary for reading in class rather than teach the skills
136 Research In English Language Teaching
THE PROCEDURE INVOLVED
The various stages of work involved in the process of accomplishing
the ‘wall poster’ activity are outlined below. Please refer to the task
sheet and procedure for the task in Appendix 1.
Explanation on the objective of the project
As mentioned earlier, this activity is part of the enculturation task
aimed at assisting learners in the process of initiation and assimilation
into the academic culture of the civil engineering course. Exposure to
the content area including the conceptual and linguistic data related to
the subject is useful to enhance learners’ understanding of the subject
matter in their civil engineering course.
The objectives of the project work are highlighted to
the students namely to develop skills of team-work, initiative,
independence and time- management. This is to enhance learners’
confidence and autonomy in the learning process. Thus, the
training provided in the ECE programme not only aims towards the
development of communicative skills in English but the underlying
objective is also aimed towards the inculcation of attributes such as
independence, initiative and confdence.
In preparing learners to be able to participate effectively in
the academic and professional community of civil engineers, it is
necessary that learners are given training within the larger educational
context of human resource development to include the inculcation of
personality traits such as confdence, independence and initiative. The
need to go beyond linguistic skills can be seen in studies conducted
by Anie Atan and Louis (1993) where they discovered that in addition
to linguistic skills, initiative and independence are highly valued in
industry. By making students aware of the objectives of the project,
they will see the relevance of the exercise as part of the learning
137 Facilitating Content Acquisition Through Language : The ‘Wall Poster’ Technique
Team spirit among students
In order to accomplish the task, learners are required to work in groups
aiming towards common goals. This is to encourage independence
and responsibility in learners to take charge of their own learning.
To ensure group coordination and foster team spirit, learners are
required to work closely under the leadership of a group coordinator.
Group effort and team spirit are prerequisites for success in the
completion of the task. A group mark of 10% will be awarded, hence,
the need for team work, careful planning, group collaboration and
cooperation, peer editing and exchange and sharing of information
Reading of simple texts
Before learners embark on the task of preparing the wall posters, they
are exposed to simple texts, the content of which relates to the subject
oI Materials in Civil Engineering¨. The aim is to Iamiliarise learners
with the conceptual and linguistic data on the topic before they are
exposed to more challenging conceptual and linguistic data.
For this task, learners will be required to work in their groups,
some to read Text A and some Text B. Based on their reading, learners
are asked to make notes and exchange information. They could also
be asked to prepare a semantic map showing the main ideas of the
Although the content of the simple texts might be of a general
nature as compared to the key texts that learners have to refer to, the
background information does provide learners with exposure to new
knowledge they might not have or, they might build upon existing
schema which they can take with them into their reading experience.
This can help to facilitate content acquisition that can lead to increased
comprehension and understanding when dealing with key texts related
to their area of specialization.
138 Research In English Language Teaching
Strategy to implement the task
The task is learner-centred with the teacher playing a more secondary
role as a facilitator and manager of learning. Learners have to work
out the action plan for completing the task based on group discussions
and negotiations. They are given the freedom to decide on the topics
and sub-topics they wish to work on. With a time duration of about
two and a half weeks for this wall poster project, learners have to
manage their time, draw up a work schedule, and decide on roles and
responsibilities of each member of the group. The group will also
determine how best they could present the information on the posters.
Thus, through support and coordination among group members,
learners independently take responsibility for the direction of their
Information gathering and content selection
Having discussed the strategy to complete the task, students will
be sent to the library to gather information from relevant sources of
information. Both primary and secondary sources of information are
acceptable. Thus interviews with senior students and lecturers are
encouraged as methods of collecting data apart from information
gathered from key references, magazines, journals, etc.
Learners are also made aware of the fact that they have
more authority than the language instructors in terms of content.
The language teacher’s role is made clear right from the beginning
as a facilitator in the learning process, assisting the learners with
any problems related to language and not assisting them on content
matters. Further explanation on the role of the language instructor is
provided later. For content validation, learners can seek clarifcation
Irom their subject lecturers, proIessionals in the feld, senior students
and their peers in the civil engineering course. They might also refer
to civil engineering texts as accurate sources of information.
After gathering the relevant data that they need, students
are expected to share and discuss the fndings oI their work, fnalise
their plans and submit the written plans to the instructor. Learners are
139 Facilitating Content Acquisition Through Language : The ‘Wall Poster’ Technique
encouraged to nominate their own categories of information although
suggestions have been given by the lecturers.
The training provided in library skills, referencing work,
information and data gathering, exchange and compilation of
information can help learners to be more autonomous in taking
responsibility for their own independent learning.
Preparation of Posters
Once the relevant inIormation has been identifed, learners will start
working on the posters. Each group will be given a marking scheme.
This will make learners aware of the mode of assessment so that they
will have an idea oI the criteria needed to Iulfl the requirements oI
the posters. As such, learners will be more prepared in handling the
tasks given as they can work towards achieving the targets they have
set for themselves.
The criteria for assessment include adequacy and clarity of
information, grammaticality and appropriacy of language, careful
planning and good team work. To ensure the quality oI the fnal
product, peer editing, group responsibility and team effort are called
The’ Wall Poster’ Presentation
Once the task of preparing the ‘wall poster’ is completed, the
different groups will hang their posters on the walls of the classroom.
Each group is asked to prepare a ‘duty roster’ so that at least one
member oI the group will be 'on duty¨ to answer questions Irom the
The learners are encouraged to ask questions. While the
language instructor is going around assessing the learners’ posters,
learners are also asked to assess their friends’ posters based on the
criteria given. They are asked to give comments on positive aspects
of the posters and other aspects which could be improved. What is
important is that learners learn from one another as they go through
the other groups’ poster to enhance their understanding of the concepts
140 Research In English Language Teaching
and principles related to the subject matter.
THE ROLE OF THE LANGUAGE INSTRUCTORS
In this activity, the role of the language instructor is that of a facilitator
or manager of learning. The language instructor is responsible for
creating the necessary conditions for learning to take place and
managing activities in the classroom.
For classroom management, the instructor prepares a schedule
for individual groups to meet him or her. At the same time, the other
groups will be working in the library, discussing and exchanging
information based on the data they have collected. Through
consultation with the language instructors, learners are helped in the
preparation of the written outline to be submitted to the language
instructor. The language instructor will also help address language
problems to facilitate learners’ acquisition of technical content
through language while assisting learners in the preparation of their
It is however stressed to the learners that the language
instructor is not a disseminator of knowledge on the content area
of the learner’s discipline. As mentioned earlier, the learners have
more authority than the language instructor in terms of content. In
the ECE programme, learners are not merely passive recipients of the
learning process but they are active participants of learning. Learners
are expected to take a much more active role in directing their own
learning and to bear responsibility for the success of the learning task.
This is part of the training given to make them more independent in
the learning process.
PRINCIPLES AT WORK
Based on the earlier discussion, some of the principles at work
in the wall poster activity can be summarised as follows:
141 Facilitating Content Acquisition Through Language : The ‘Wall Poster’ Technique
Learners are placed at the centre of activities with this
student- centred approach.
The language instructors play the role of facilitators and
managers of learning, creating the necessary conditions for
learning to take place.
The wall poster activity provides the basis for an enculturation
activity to assist the learner in the process of enculturation and
assimilation into the academic culture of civil engineering.
Learners have more authority in terms of content knowledge.
The language instructors are not disseminators of information
but their role is to address language problems that impede
comprehension of content.
The task is purpose-driven aimed towards enhancing learner’s
performance in the academic subject.
Learners are trained in note-taking skills which will help
towards meeting academic needs.
Learners’ motivation is increased as marks are awarded not
only for relevant information but also for creativity in the
presentation of information and visuals.
Learners are encouraged to present facts accurately and
Learners determine the topics/ subject areas they wish to
work on and include in the assigned task.
Learners invest their responsibility, initiative, time, energy,
effort and creativity to ensure successful completion of the
Learners discuss strategies to complete the task, to draw up
an action plan and work schedule and to manage their own
Learners cooperate and negotiate in activity groups through
discussion and exchange of information. Group interaction
and collaboration foster team spirit, learner independence
142 Research In English Language Teaching
Learners who are more independent are helped towards
greater autonomy through support from their more
independent peers. Learners thus become less dependent on
Learners are trained to inculcate leadership qualities by
becoming group leaders and coordinators.
Learners are given the freedom to take charge of their own
learning and set the direction of their own learning paths.
Learners have more control in planning, organizing and
implementation of the learning task.
Learners are active participants in the teaching - learning
process and not merely passive recipients of learning.
The ‘wall poster’ activity is aimed not only to enhance learners’
understanding of concepts and principles related to the civil
engineering subject. It is also designed to promote interest and
creativity among students while immersing them into the content
area of their academic subjects. Most importantly, the activity
promotes team spirit, group coordination and learner independence
and responsibility to ensure successful completion of the task. These
are traits deemed important for learners to acquire towards becoming
more independent and become effective team players.
Abdul Halim Abdul Raof, Louis, AF, Masputeriah Hamzah and
Khairi Izwan Abdullah. 1996. Relevance through integration
and collaboration. Paper presented at the Malaysia
International Conference on English Language Teaching
143 Facilitating Content Acquisition Through Language : The ‘Wall Poster’ Technique
(MICELT’96), Universiti Pertanian Malaysia, Penang, 20-
22 May 1996.
Anie Attan and Louis, AF 1993. Designing language profles meet
customer needs. Paper presented at the Regional Language
Centre international seminar on 'Language Ior Specifc
Purposes: Problems and Prospects¨, Singapore, 19-21 April
Khairi Izwan Abdullah, Louis, AF, Abdul Halim Abdul Raof and
Masputeriah Hamzah 1995. Towards a framework for
curriculum design in ESP. ESP Malaysia Journal, Vol.3
Masputeriah Hamzah, Abdul Halim Abdul Raof, Khairi Izwan
Abdullah and Louis, A.F. 1995. Designing learning materials
for civil engineering students. ESP Malaysia, Vol. 3 Issue 2
To assist students in their process of enculturation or assimilation
into the culture of the academic and professional community of
Civil Engineers, the task assigned will help students in discovering
for themselves the scope of ‘Materials in Civil Engineering’ and its
relation to the feld oI Civil Engineering.
Make notes on the topic ‘Materials in Civil Engineering’ based on
the reading texts given and on information collected from other
144 Research In English Language Teaching
Use the notes to prepare for a wall poster presentation on the
Your posters should contain suIfcient, relevant and selI-
explanatory information appropriate for someone new to the
Prepare a glossary list of at least 10 key terms in ‘Materials
in Civil Engineering’.
Use the following format:
GLOSSARY – ENGINEERING SURVEYING
Word/Phrase Bahasa Malaysia Equivalent
1 _____________________ _______________________
Procedure for wall poster presentation
Work in groups oI fve or six. Appoint a group coordinator.
Study the requirements of the task and discuss your
understanding of what you are required to do.
Plan out a strategy to complete the task. You could include
the following in your discussion:
categories of information which your group would like
(e.g. main topics covered, types of assignments, etc.)
145 Facilitating Content Acquisition Through Language : The ‘Wall Poster’ Technique
methods of collecting information
(e.g. reading, interviewing, etc.).
distribution of duties among the group members
the work schedule for completing the task
Collect information in the library and/or in your faculty
resource room to get a general idea of the chosen topic.
When you have collected the necessary information, meet to
share the information with your group members.
As a group, plan for and prepare the posters. All members
of the group should be prepared to answer questions on the
posters during the wall poster presentation session.
On the presentation day, display your group’s posters on the
walls. Take turns to be stationed near your group’s posters
and to go round the class Excerpt 4
147 Using Bahasa Melayu While Writing In English: A Case Study Of Malay Students
USING BAHASA MELAYU WHILE
WRITING IN ENGLISH: A CASE STUDY
OF MALAY STUDENTS
Writing in a second language (L2) is a challenging process
(Wolfersberger, 2003:1). He continues to explain that this is because
while the frst language (L1) writing process includes producing
content, drafting ideas, revising writing, choosing appropriate
vocabulary, and editing texts, writing in L2 involves all of these
elements jumbled with second language processing issues.
In addition to that, L2 writers are also faced with other
challenges that can affect the L2 writers’ composing competence.
Factors such as linguistic competence, cognitive ability as well as
social aspects also need to be addressed by ESL practitioners in order
to understand L2 writing better. However, because of the constraints
of limited second-language knowledge, writing in a second language
may be hampered because of the need to focus on language rather than
content (Weigle, 2002: 35). It is true that form or language does play
an important role in L2 writing but it should not be the only element
that needs attention. Writing in a second language classroom should
not be impeded in lieu of too much focus on the language. As such, a
shift in paradigm is needed so as to address other important elements
that underly L2 writing such as background knowledge, writing
strategies, writing processes, the role of L1, and others.
148 Research In English Language Teaching
LANGUAGE SWITCHING AND L2 WRITING
Various studies have compared L1 English essays and ESL essays
written by groups of students with different L1 background to
investigate L1-L2 transfer of cultural rhetorical patterns (Uzawa,
1996, Kubota, 1998, Wolfersberger, 2003, Wang, 2003). The
assumption is that if distinct patterns emerged from English written
texts written by different L1 groups, they would provide evidence
that such rhetorical patterns exist in their L1 and carry over into L2
writing. Kobayashi (1984) in Kubota (1998) conducted a study on
Japanese students and observed that essays written in Japanese were
similar to essays written in English in terms of rhetorical pattern,
which confrmed the transIer Irom L1 (Japanese) to L2 (English). Oi
(1984) cited in Kubota (1998) examined essays written by Japanese
students writing in Japanese and English and found evidence of
L1 to L2 transfer based on similarities in some lexical features and
organisational patterns. Thus, it can be concluded here that transfer
from L1 to L2 does exist and further studies on this will be of great
help towards understanding the nature of L2 writing. ESL practitioners
need to have a clear understanding of the unique nature of L2 writing
in order to deal effectively with L2 writers (Silva, 1993:657). Silva
(1993) further commented that:
“There is evidence to suggest that L1 and L2 writings are
similar in their broad outlines; that is, it has been shown
that both L1 and L2 writers employ a recursive composing
process, involving planning, writing, and revising, do develop
their ideas and fnd the appropriate rhetorical and linguistic
means to express them”.
The above statement demonstrates that there is not much
difference between L1 and L2 writers and a close examination of
both L1 and L2 writing is needed to explore this further. This can
be achieved by means of an empirical research comparing ESL and
149 Using Bahasa Melayu While Writing In English: A Case Study Of Malay Students
native-English-speaking writers as well as that comparing L1 and L2
writing of L2 subjects (Silva, 1993:658).
Edelsky (1982) conducted a study on the relationship between
frst language and second language writing and she Iound out that
L1 writing processes have been used in L2 writing. In addition to
that, what a writer knows about writing in the frst language Iorms
the basis of new hypotheses rather than interferes with writing in
another language. Therefore, knowledge of L1 writing should be seen
as assisting L2 writing rather than hampering it.
Similarly, Qi (1996), in his study on a Chinese subject,
discovered frequent switching between L1 and L2 even during
the development of a single thought. This particular subject often
switched quickly to the language in which an idea could be most
comfortably expressed (Qi, 1996:427). This switch, according to
Qi (1996), resulted from the subject’s need to use a language that
could articulate her ideas most effectively, expressively, and with
the least possible interruption in the process of thought development.
This fnding indicates that using L1 when writing in L2 does indeed
promote L2 writing rather than hindering it since the use of L1 is seen
as helping L2 writers in the process of composing especially in the
idea generating phase. This is further supported by Qi (1996) who
claimed that, based on his research, language-switching enabled an
initiated thought to continue to develop and helped generate content
which the subject of his study sometimes felt less competent to
produce when she used L2 only.
In relation to the above, Woodall (2000) ascertained that
language switching in L2 plays a signifcant role in L2 writing and
any model of L2 writing skill needs to incorporate this behaviour.
This ultimate discovery acknowledges the importance of language
switching so much so that any L2 writing model should include this
behaviour as it is seen as an important aspect of L2 writing. Quite
possibly, according to Woodall (2000), language switching is essential
for representing the development of L2 writing skills, as opposed to
merely describing the development of L2 writing processes. Woodall
(2000: 185) goes on to explain that:
150 Research In English Language Teaching
…it seems like a good pedagogical practice to recognise that a
student’s native language can be an important resource in L2
writing. As a tool, the L1 can be used in the writing processes,
like generating content and organising ideas. Students who
have troubles generating content in their L2 might use their
L1 Ior these purposes until they have obtained suIfcient L2
resources Ior eIfcient content generation.
In a much more recent study, Wang and Wen (2002) discovered
that the L2 writing process is a bilingual event; L2 writers have two
languages (i.e. L1 and L2) at their disposal when they are composing.
This study also found L1 involvement in various composing activities;
process-controlling, idea-generating, and idea-organizing activities
(Wang and Wen, 2002:239). When investigated further, it is found
that their subjects with low English profciency level tend to directly
translate from L1 to L2 throughout their L2 composing process.
The advanced subjects, on the other hand, appeared to use their L1
strategically for idea-generating, monitoring, and lexical searching
purposes (Wang and Wen, 2002). This fnding reveals that, regardless
oI one`s L2 profciency, L2 writers tend to switch to their L1 at some
point in their attempt at composing in L2.
In another related study, conducted on eight adult Chinese
speaking writers, Wang (2003) found that all participants in the study
switched language frequently while composing in the L2. Furthermore,
the fndings oI the study also suggested that language-switching was
common to high and low profciency learners, Iacilitating their writing
processes while they were composing (Wang, 2003). Ultimately, this
study also discovered that the high profciency participants switched
to their L1 more Irequently than the low profciency participants
did while composing in two writing tasks required of them. This
indicated that, as far as L2 writing is concerned, regardless of their L2
profciency, L2 writers will eventually resort to their L1 Ior various
purposes during the composing process.
151 Using Bahasa Melayu While Writing In English: A Case Study Of Malay Students
3.0 Research Questions
The main questions that this research attempts to answer are:
Do Malay university students with different levels of English
language profciency switch to Bahasa Melayu when writing
If yes, how, when and for what reasons.
FINDINGS AND DISCUSSIONS
A total oI 620 questionnaires were distributed to the frst year frst
semester engineering undergraduates at the Universiti Teknologi
Malaysia. These students were oI multiple profciency levels based
on their Malaysian University English Test (MUET) scores, ranging
Irom Band 1 to Band 5 and with the majority oI them belonging to
Band 3. A detailed distribution oI these students based on their MUET
scores is further illustrated in the following table:
Table 1: Respondents’ MUET scores
MUET Scores Frequency
Not stated 20
Band 1 7
Band 2 138
Band 3 381
Band 4 71
Band 5 3
152 Research In English Language Teaching
The distribution of the questionnaires took almost a month
to complete. They were distributed to those students taking their
frst English course at the university; i.e. English Ior Academic
Communication. Since the focus of this study is on the engineering
students, the questionnaires were then circulated among students from
these engineering faculties, namely 1) the Faculty of Mechanical
Engineering, 2) the Faculty of Electrical Engineering, 3) the Faculty
of Chemical and Natural Resource Engineering, and 4) the Faculty
of Civil Engineering. Some of these questionnaires were distributed
personally by the researcher and some were distributed by the lecturers
teaching the different cohorts of students.
After all questionnaires have been returned, I then started
to do a thorough check on them to make sure that they had all been
completed in full. After this, the responses to the 620 questionnaires
were coded and analysed . This involved the application of the
SPSS statistical package where all information obtained from
the questionnaire were coded, keyed in and later analysed using
descriptive statistics to obtain the relevant information.
The analysis oI the questionnaire revealed signifcant fndings
related to the research questions that this study is trying to address.
The most striking result was that 87.42% (542 out of 620) of the
respondents indicated that they use Bahasa Melayu while undertaking
a writing task in English, while only 12.58% (78 out of 620) said they
did not. This fnding demonstrates unequivocally that, regardless oI
their levels oI profciency, most Malay university students do switch
to Bahasa Melayu when they are in the process oI completing a
writing task in English.
There was however, considerable variation with the samples
with regards to the Irequency oI use oI Bahasa Melayu while engaged
in a writing task in English, as illustrated in the following table:
153 Using Bahasa Melayu While Writing In English: A Case Study Of Malay Students
The above table indicates that almost 50% of the samples (268
out oI 542) reported occasional use oI Bahasa Melayu while almost
25° (133 out oI 542) indicate that they oIten` used Bahasa Melayu
when dealing with producing texts in English. Very few students
(1.8°) reported that they always` used Bahasa Melayu when writing
assignments in English (10 out of 542). A further quarter of the
students (24.2°) said they rarely` used Bahasa Melayu in carrying
out writing tasks in English.
The next interesting finding that emerges from this
questionnaire relates to the specifc ways in which Bahasa Melayu
was used by these respondents when they were in the process of
completing a writing assignment in English. The following table
illustrates the diIIerent uses oI Bahasa Melayu reported by the
Table 2: Respondents` use oI Bahasa Melayu while writing in English
Description Frequency Percent
Rarely 131 24.2
Sometimes 268 49.4
OIten 133 24.5
Always 10 1.8
Total 542 100
Description Frequency Percent
1. Generating ideas in Bahasa Melayu and later
translate them into English
2. Looking up in the bilingual dictionary for the
appropriate English words to use
3. Making notes (e.g. mind maps) in Bahasa
Melayu and later translate them into English
154 Research In English Language Teaching
A closer look at the above table demonstrates that the
respondents used Bahasa Melayu mainly when generating their
initial ideas for a writing task which they then translated into English.
Apart Irom that, Bahasa Melayu was also reported to be used when
these respondents were Iacing diIfculties in fnding the appropriate
English words to be used when writing in English. Thus, using a
bilingual dictionary was ranked second by these respondents as one
oI the ways in which Bahasa Melayu was utilized when they were
writing in English.
As shown in the above table, the respondents said that they
also used Bahasa Melayu when they were making notes prior to the
actual writing. This was placed as the third most frequently mentioned
use oI Bahasa Melayu. Next, it seems that Bahasa Melayu was also
used by these respondents when they initially translated any diIfcult
English words or phrases into Bahasa Melayu beIore they started
writing in English, for example in interpreting assignment questions
and guidelines. The least common way oI using Bahasa Melayu,
as shown in the above table, was by discussions of aspects of the
English text in Bahasa Melayu with a classmate or Iamily member.
This is probably due to the fact that much of the students’ writing
was done in the classroom and not as home work, hence the lack of
opportunity for discussion.
AIter examining the ways in which Bahasa Melayu was used
by these respondents, I turned my attention to the stage of writing
4.Translating any diIfcult English words or
phrases into Bahasa Melayu
5. Discussing aspects of the English text in
Bahasa Melayu with a classmate or
Total 1981 100
Table 3: How Bahasa Melayu was used when writing in English
155 Using Bahasa Melayu While Writing In English: A Case Study Of Malay Students
during which they reported using Bahasa Melayu the most. The table
below clearly exhibits the different stages in writing in which they
said they were using Bahasa Melayu the most.
Table 4: When Bahasa Melayu was used when writing in English
Description Frequency Percent
1. When I brainstorm for ideas
2. When I draft and write my essay
3. When I edit and proofread my essay
Total 798 100
Looking closely at the table, I could see that Bahasa Melayu
was mostly utilised by these respondents when they were brainstorming
Ior ideas to be included in their written work. A signifcant proportion
oI the students reported use oI Bahasa Melayu at that stage (58.4°).
A Iurther signifcant proportion (31.07°) indicated that they use
Bahasa Malaysia when they were draIting/writing their essays. A
much smaller proportion (10.53°) suggested that they used Bahasa
Melayu when they were editing and proofreading their essays, for
example checking lexical items in a bilingual dictionary.
Next, we are going to look at the reasons why Bahasa Melayu
was used by the respondents when completing a writing task in
English. They were seven reasons altogether and they were ranked
accordingly by the most utilised to the least utilised.
156 Research In English Language Teaching
Table 5: Reasons Ior using Bahasa Melayu when writing in English
Description Frequency Percent
1. To enable me to think of what to write
2. To clarify ideas to be included in the writing
3. To enable me to fnd suitable English words to be
used when writing.
4. To ensure the continuation oI my fow
5. To help me fnd the meaning oI any
6. To enable me to understand the task that I have
to Iulfl by translating the question into
7. Using Bahasa Melayu when undertaking
a writing task in English had become a habit
Total 2588 100
As highlighted by the above table, Bahasa Melayu was
reported to be used mostly during the idea generation phase (19.38%).
This correlates with the earlier fndings in Table 3 where the most
Irequently reported Iunction oI Bahasa Melayu was that oI developing
ideas for the writing which were then translated into English. It also
correlates with Table 4, item 1, which referred to the brainstorming
stage oI writing as being the time when the greatest use oI Bahasa
Melayu was evident.
Other reasons given by the students Ior the use oI Bahasa
Melayu included: clarifying their ideas to be included in their writings
( reported by 16.65° oI the samples), fnding suitable English words
to be used when writing (e.g. by referring to a bilingual dictionary)
157 Using Bahasa Melayu While Writing In English: A Case Study Of Malay Students
(reported by 15.84% of the samples), ensuring the continuation of
their fow oI thoughts while writing (reported by 15.26° oI the
samples), understanding the meaning oI any diIfcult words that
could help them in their writing later on (e.g. through the use of a
bilingual dictionary, as mentioned earlier )(reported by 14.91% of the
samples). Similarly, use of a bilingual dictionary was also implied by
the responses relating to translating questions into Bahasa Melayu Ior
facilitating understanding of the required task (reported by 12.86% of
the samples). And fnally, a small proportion oI the students (5.10°)
actually chose the questionnaire item which stated that using Bahasa
Melayu had become a habit.
Lastly, the vast majority of the students in the samples
responded positively to the question which was designed to determine
their perceptions on the value oI Bahasa Melayu when having to
produce texts in English for their university studies. The following
table summarizes the pattern of answers to this question.
Table 6: Does using Bahasa Melayu help
Undoubtedly, the use oI Bahasa Melayu was regarded by
these respondents as facilitating them in completing writing tasks in
English. Contrary to the views that predominant in ELT circles, most
oI these students appeared to view their L1 as a signifcant resource
in the accomplishment of the required tasks.
158 Research In English Language Teaching
This study is far from conclusive. More analysis needs to be done on
the fndings to oIIer a more conclusive recommendation. Nevertheless,
based on these preliminary fndings, it is then appropriate to conclude
that these Malay university students do depend on Bahasa Melayu
when they were writing in English. They used Bahasa Melayu Ior
a variety of reasons as well as in different ways and stages of their
writings. Therefore, it is imperative that teachers of ESL writing look
at how one’s L1 can actually help while undertaking a writing task
Edelsky, C. 1982. Writing in A Bilingual Program: The Relation oI
L1 and L2 Texts. TESOL Quarterly. 16(2): 213-225.
Kubota, R. 1998. An Investigation of L1-L2 Transfer in Writing
among Japanese University Students: Implications for
Contrastive Rhetoric. Journal of Second Language Writing.
Qi, D. 1998. An Inquiry into Language-switching in Second
Language Composing Process. The Canadian Modern
Language Review. 54 (3): 413-435.
Silva, T. 1993. Toward an Understanding of the Distinct Nature of
L2 writing: The ESL Research and Its Implications. TESOL
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161 Corpus Analysis Of Primary One Science Textbooks For Designing Elt Materials
CORPUS ANALYSIS OF PRIMARY
ONE SCIENCE TEXTBOOKS FOR
DESIGNING ELT MATERIALS
YASMIN HANAFI ZAID
To make use of words or lists of words in various forms for various
purposes is not new. We have been using lists of vocabulary words
for tourists and students from various levels of education in the form
of glossaries, lists of jargons, indexes and the like. Such lists are
The government’s recent policy on the teaching of Science in
English calls for a fundamental support from language practitioners
and researchers oI these felds. Here, we highlight some important
issues regarding the use of English as the medium of instruction for
the teaching and learning of Science in primary schools. Among
others, the language issue related to the lexical, syntactic and
semantic patterns of English in Science and Technology (EST)
has been ‘under-researched’. This, therefore, sets the focus of our
study which undertakes to examine the language patterns existing
in science authentic texts. Among the many conventional methods
that can be adopted, such as functional-notional @ communicative
method (Wilkins, 1976), structural @grammar approach (Chomsky,
1965), procedural approach (Prabhu, 1987) or instrospective and
retrospective methods (Pressley and AIferbach, 1995) which oIten
162 Research In English Language Teaching
times are limited and unsystematic, we propose to employ the method
which involves the making of corpus of this subject area using
lexical approach (Lewis, 1994). The lexical approach (Lewis, 1993;
Willis, 1990, Willis & Willis, 1988, 1989) is chosen for a number of
reasons: 1) it emphasises on the importance of co-text (i.e. language
is not de-contextualised), 2) it provides a range of awareness-raising
activities that direct the learner’s attention to chunks text composed,
3) it focuses on different forms of lexical item. The corpus produced
can then be used by other researchers in this area for teaching and
In this paper, we will discuss the preliminary stage of an on-
going research which aims to design teaching and learning materials
through an analysis of a corpus of texts taken from Science textbooks
for Primary One students in Malaysia. The topic of our research is
‘EST Teaching and Learning Materials via WWW Based on Corpus
Analysis of Mathematics, Science and English Text Books in
Malaysian Primary Schools’. This paper, however, only focuses on
the use of the frequency list and corpus of Science texts to develop
teaching and learning materials for English language learners of
Primary One students.
CORPUS AND CONCORDANCES
What is a corpus? A corpus is defned as a computer-based text or
collection of texts’ (Barlow, 2003) in machine-readable form. It is
any text-only fle, or set oI text-only fles that can be loaded into
the program (concordancing program ) for analysis’ (Barlow, 2003:
19). In linguistic settings, Sinclair et al. (1987) defned corpus as a
collection of texts, of the written or spoken word, which is stored and
processed on computer for the purpose of linguistic research’.
Today, there has been a growing interest and need in corpus
making and use. These interests, among others, are based on the
following reasons (Svartvik, 1992: 8-9):
163 Corpus Analysis Of Primary One Science Textbooks For Designing Elt Materials
language practitioners require large amounts of easily
accessible and authentic data. Language complexities may
not be suIfciently captured by introspection and elicitation
alone. Corpus, in comparison to random introspective
observation, is deemed necessary to objectively examine
corpus is necessary in describing the different language
uses and in establishing between frequency of occurrence of
corpus is a general source of information for indexing key
words and concepts.
some subject areas, e.g. science and technology, adhere to
specifc language styles, Iunctions and Iormats. These can be
captured through corpus analysis.
Corpus is, therefore, a collection of naturally-occurring
language text, chosen to characterize a language variety or discourse.
As the lists of words are often extensive and bulky, analysis of corpus
through the use of software such as Monoconc is sought. Monoconc
enables language practitioners to instantly work out the frequency list
of words and phrases in the corpus and patterns of their occurrence.
Such patterns of occurrence can be in the form of concordance.
What is Concordance? Sinclair (1991:32) defines a
concordance as “a collection of the occurrences of a word-form, each
in its own textual environment”. It is basically an index to the words
in a text. Concordancing is the technique of locating the occurrences
oI a specifc word that has been selected in a particular corpus and
consequently listing its context very quickly and reliably. In other
words, concordance gives access to important language patterns in
texts and fnds key words in context, i.e. words that occur on either
side of a word or phrase selected for study.
It gives access to important language patterns in texts and
fnds key words in context, i.e. words that occur on either side oI a
word or phrase selected for study. An example of the concordance
164 Research In English Language Teaching
of the word pupils from a corpus of science texts for Primary One
students in Malaysia is shown in Figure 1 below.
Concordance is also a Co-text. The Co-text of a selected word
or phrase consists of the other words on either side of it. For instance
in Figure 1 below, the Co-text of the word pupils are get-to, let-know,
Figure 1: Co-text of the word pupils [Concordance of pupils]
Concordancing software or computer concordancers such as
MonoConc Pro 2.2 (MP 2.2) can be used to rapidly search for patterns
in a corpus using its search query. It can be used to analyse lexical,
165 Corpus Analysis Of Primary One Science Textbooks For Designing Elt Materials
grammatical and textual structures of a corpus.
Concordance has several advantages. For instance, by using
the software Monoconc Pro 2.2 (MP2.2), it is possible to search for
frequency lists of word occurrences
rare instances of words or strings of words
strings of words in the context of other strings
particular patterns of words and sorts them to focus on similar
occurrences to reveal their properties
Corpus analysis studies have been numerous (see Tribble and
Jones, 1997; Murison-Bowie, 1993; Willis and Willis, 1988, 1989,
among others). For instance, Willis and Willis (1988, 1989) attempt to
design course books for English language learners through authentic
evidence found in the COBUILD corpus. Most useful words and
patterns are identifed and presented in the course books to English
language learners in order to give them a good start with instances
of real and most frequent patterns of the target language.
An ESP web-based courseware called UNITEKMA ECE
courseware for Civil Engineering students at the tertiary level of
education has also been designed based on computational linguistic
analysis of a corpus on Civil Engineering materials (Sarimah
Shamsudin, 1997; Sarimah Shamsudin et al. 2002) Research
conducted on the use of the web-based ECE Courseware indicated
that the courseware is able to provide students with authentic and
real examples of the language in the context of Civil Engineering
materials. The glossary available in the courseware helps the students
gain new vocabulary and defnitions oI terms and concepts in civil
Currently, there are many different collections of corpora
of English, especially general written and spoken corpus. A few
examples are the Collins Birmingham University International
Language Database (COBUILD) of English, Lancaster-Oslo-Bergen
(LOB) Corpus of British English and the Brown Corpus of American
166 Research In English Language Teaching
METHODOLOGY OF THE ONGOING RESEARCH
Let us begin to describe the on-going research which aims to design
teaching and learning materials through an analysis of a corpus of
Science textbooks for Primary One students in Malaysian schools.
The main study intends to include texts from the areas of Science,
Mathematics and English primary one textbooks.
First, text books and workbooks in the respective subjects
used in Primary Schools in Malaysia were gathered and copyright
permission was sought out. Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP) was
very prompt in giving the copyright of the titles they published.
The other publisher has not given the permission to date although
permission was sought at the same time with DBP.
For the purpose of this presentation, only Science text books
were analysed. The procedures taken to get the data for this paper
were similar to those that we took for the whole research and they
were as follows:
each page of the science textbook was scanned using C-pen
10 and saved as textfles
All the textfles Ior science texts were merged
the merged textfle or corpus was analysed using Monoconc
to get the results that are useful for our purpose
A frequency list was produced using MonoConc (See Figure
2). Below is the frst page oI the actual Irequency list produced. A
complete frequency list is found in Appendix A.
167 Corpus Analysis Of Primary One Science Textbooks For Designing Elt Materials
The list produced mixed results and the words that were
deemed Irequent, can then be classifed into grammatical or structural
words and content words, as shown in Table 2 below.
Figure 2: Frequency list
Grammar Words Content Words
Frequency Words Frequency Words
294 The 201 pupils
262 To 133 point
172 And 133 things
157 They 109 ask
148 A 107 teaching
144 That 97 animals
135 In 55 see
132 Is 52 sound
126 Are 48 make
168 Research In English Language Teaching
From frequency lists (Appendix A, Table 2) and their
concordance, teachers can develop learning and teaching materials
for English language learners.
DEVELOPING TEACHING AND LEARNING MATERIALS
FOR ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNERS
This paper further discusses how to use the frequency list and corpus
of Science texts to develop teaching and learning materials for English
language learners of Primary One students.
For instance in Appendix A, the content word things is one of
the common words in the corpus. It can be considered as an important
concept for Primary One learners of Science as its occurrence in the
corpus consists of 9 242 words is 133…..
In addition, we may design exercises based on the collocation
of the words found in the frequency list such as things (frequency: 133
- Figure 4) and animals (frequency: 97 – Figure 3). To collocate is
to fnd the word which occurs in close proximity to the word under
investigation. Thus a collocation is the occurrence of two or more
words within a short space of each other in a text. Usual measures
of proximity are a maximum of four words intervening.
120 Of 46 water
119 Them 44 eat
112 We 44 plants
106 What 44 food
Table 2: Frequency of Grammar and Content words
169 Corpus Analysis Of Primary One Science Textbooks For Designing Elt Materials
The frequency list (appendix A) determines which word we
need to collocate. Our decision should be based on the necessity of
the word. The more the frequency of occurrence, the more important
the word will be. After the word is decided on, it is run through
the MonoConc to work out the collocation, ie the context the word
actually appears in the science texts analyzed. For instance the word
things is found to be frequent. Figure 3 below shows the collocation
of the word things.
Figure 3: The collocation of the word animals
170 Research In English Language Teaching
From the following figures we can see that the words
surrounding the target word things include the, then and the like.
Nevertheless, the most important information that we should know
here is the co-text of the word in question.
Figure 4: The collocation of the word things
171 Corpus Analysis Of Primary One Science Textbooks For Designing Elt Materials
Figure 5: The collocation of big things
The words big and small seem to be very salient with the
word things (See fgure 9).
172 Research In English Language Teaching
After we found out that the words small and big were very
salient with the words things, we were able to use the same method to
work out the collocation of these words. The result of the collocation
for these two words with the word thing can be expressed in Figure 7
and 8. From Figure 7 we learnt that the next salient word to small is
the word ßoat and from Figure 8 we learn that the next salient word
for big things is sink.
Figure 6: The collocation of small things
173 Corpus Analysis Of Primary One Science Textbooks For Designing Elt Materials
Figure 7: The collocation of ßoat
174 Research In English Language Teaching
Figure 8: The collocation of sink
The same method can yet be used to fnd out what were
referred to by the word things. Figure 9 lists some examples of words
which were meant by things.
Figure 9: The frequency of those we can call things
With all these fndings we can then teach the concept oI things
and other salient words that collocate with it such as big, small, ßoat
175 Corpus Analysis Of Primary One Science Textbooks For Designing Elt Materials
Below are some sample exercises that teachers can try:
Sample Exercise 1:
Prepare either cut out pictures (low profciency) or words (higher
profciency) that can stick on a board (e.g. metal board) by means
of magnetic strip. These cut-out pictures or words consist of those
we can call things. Prepare the word things that will be put in the
middle of the board. The cut-out pictures or words are placed on a
table so that students can see them. Students are asked to place the
correct pictures or words. A completed student activity will look like
Figures 10 and 11.
Figure 10: Board 1a: pictures
176 Research In English Language Teaching
Sample Exercise 2:
Words that can qualify as things included in the previous exercise,
such as big, small, sink, ßoat and the like, can now be added. With
this new addition, students will need to identify these words in relation
to the earlier ones. Figure 12 illustrates this by using the words sink
and foat. Teachers can also use big and small in the same manner.
spaceship fower leaI
boat THINGS animal
Figure 11: Board 1b: words
177 Corpus Analysis Of Primary One Science Textbooks For Designing Elt Materials
The organisation of the game can be done in two ways. The
frst way is to use magnetic strip stuck at the back oI all cut-out words
or pictures. (See fgures 10, 11 and 13). The students can move
these words or cutout pictures as they need to. The second way is to
use string. A piece of string starts from the word things (See fgure
12). The string can be used by students to join the words for various
From this preliminary research, we can conclude that corpus analysis
of texts, even at the primary school level, would be able to provide us
with new opportunities in designing teaching and learning materials to
be used in schools. Corpus gives teachers and materials writers, new
perspectives in their work. With the help of computer and computer
Figure 12: Board 1a: sink and foat - pictures
Figure 13: Board 1a: sink and foat - words
178 Research In English Language Teaching
programmes, the job of analyzing words and phrases becomes easier,
more accurate and more interesting. Those lists of words can be
regarded as important, as they are obtained through the analysis
of corpus, rather than doing it by intuition, as done by most text or
workbook writers. Teachers should take the opportunity to try such
means. Our research tries to produce materials which will enable
students learning the English language to beneft Irom the policy oI
teaching science and mathematics in English.
In our research, we also would like to fnd out iI students who
undergo corpus based materials have better understanding of generic
concepts in their chosen felds.
Aston, G., (2001) Learning with Corpora Houston: Athelstan.
Barlow, M., (1997) MonoConc for Windows Houston: Athelstan.
Barlow, M. (1997). A Guide to Monoconc. http://www.ruf.rice.
Barlow, M., (2003) Concordancing and Corpus Analysis Using
MP2.2 Houston: Athelstan.
Chomsky, n. (1965) Aspects of the Theory of Syntax. Cambridge,
Mass: Cambridge University Press.
Lewis, M. (1993). The Lexical Approach: The State of ELT and a
Way Forward. Hove: Language Teaching Publications.
Murison-Bowie, S. (1993) . MicroConcord Manual: An
Introduction to the Practices and Principles of Concordancing
in Language Teaching. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Prabhu, N. S. (1987). Second Language Pedagogy. Oxford: Oxford
Pressley, M. and AIferbach, P. (1995). Verbal Protocols of
Reading.Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, UK.
Salbiah Seliman, Zaidah Zainal, Sarimah Shamsudin, Yasmin
Hanaf Zaid. (in progress). EST Teaching and Learning
179 Corpus Analysis Of Primary One Science Textbooks For Designing Elt Materials
Materials via WWW Based on Corpus Analysis of
Mathematics, Science and English Text Books Used in
Malaysian Primary Schools. IRPA Project 74234.
Sarimah Shamsudin (1997). Introducing Self-Access ESP CALL
Material Based on Corpus Analysis Via the World Wide
Web for the English for Civil Engineering Programme in
University Technology Malaysia. Unpublished Masters
Dissertation, Aston University, Birmingham, UK.
Sarimah Shamsudin et al. (2002). Courseware Development on
Civil Engineering Construction Materials for Self-Access
Language Learning via the WWW:A Computational
Linguistic Analysis Approach. A report for the Research
Management Centre, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia.
Sinclair, J. et al. (1987). Collins Cobuild English Language
Dictionary. London: William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd.
Sinclair, J., (1991) Corpus, Concordance, Collocation Oxford:
Oxford University Press:
Svartvik, J. (1992). Corpus linguistic comes of age. In Jan Svartvik
(ed.) Trends in Linguistics Studies and Monographs 65:
Directions in Corpus Linguistics. Mouton De Gruyter.
Tribble, C and Jones, G., (1989) Concordances in the Classroom:
Resource Book for Teachers Essex: Longman Group UK
Wilkins, D. (1976). Notional Syllabuses. Oxford: Oxford
Willis, D. (1990). The Lexical Syllabus. London: Harper Collins
Willis, J. & Willis D. (1988). Collins Cobuild English Course:
Students’ Book 1. London: William Collins Sons & Co.
Willis, J. & Willis D. (1989). Collins Cobuild English Course:
Students’ Book 1. London: William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd.
180 Research In English Language Teaching
The Complete Corpus (Frequency) List for Science Text Books For
Corpus taken from Primary One Science Textbooks (9,242
words) word list
294 3.1637% the
262 2.8193% to
201 2.1629% pupils
172 1.8509% and
157 1.6894% they
148 1.5926% a
144 1.5496% that
135 1.4527% in
133 1.4312% point
133 1.4312% things
132 1.4204% is
126 1.3559% are
120 1.2913% of
119 1.2805% them
112 1.2052% we
109 1.1729% ask
107 1.1514% teaching
106 1.1406% what
99 1.0653% you
98 1.0546% can
97 1.0438% animals
84 0.9039% tell
83 0.8931% these
79 0.8501% have
77 0.8286% some
74 0.7963% get
72 0.7748% it
72 0.7748% their
181 Corpus Analysis Of Primary One Science Textbooks For Designing Elt Materials
66 0.7102% do
57 0.6134% i
55 0.5918% not
55 0.5918% our
55 0.5918% see
52 0.5596% sounds
51 0.5488% when
48 0.5165% if
48 0.5165% make
48 0.5165% or
46 0.4950% water
44 0.4735% eat
44 0.4735% food
44 0.4735% plants
44 0.4735% us
44 0.4735% with
43 0.4627% this
41 0.4412% about
41 0.4412% out
41 0.4412% smell
40 0.4304% group
40 0.4304% like
39 0.4197% feel
37 0.3981% be
35 0.3766% different
35 0.3766% how
35 0.3766% teeth
34 0.3659% name
33 0.3551° fnd
33 0.3551% know
32 0.3443% on
32 0.3443% small
31 0.3336% which
30 0.3228% live
30 0.3228% plant
182 Research In English Language Teaching
29 0.3121% around
29 0.3121% grow
28 0.3013% other
27 0.2905% answer
27 0.2905% big
27 0.2905% parts
27 0.2905% too
26 0.2798% should
26 0.2798% sink
25 0.2690% at
25 0.2690% my
25 0.2690% use
24 0.2583% colour
23 0.2475% body
23 0.2475° foat
23 0.2475% shape
23 0.2475% something
22 0.2367% colours
22 0.2367% day
22 0.2367% did
22 0.2367% light
21 0.2260% 1
21 0.2260% dark
21 0.2260% for
21 0.2260% hear
21 0.2260% learned
21 0.2260% many
20 0.2152% taste
20 0.2152% there
19 0.2045% by
19 0.2045% e
19 0.2045% every
19 0.2045% from
19 0.2045% hands
19 0.2045% may
183 Corpus Analysis Of Primary One Science Textbooks For Designing Elt Materials
19 0.2045% same
19 0.2045% talk
19 0.2045% where
19 0.2045% your
18 0.1937% fruits
18 0.1937% g
18 0.1937% one
17 0.1829% 2
17 0.1829% aloud
17 0.1829% nice
17 0.1829% words
16 0.1722% bahasa
16 0.1722% each
16 0.1722% english